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DMV will issue driver's licenses to some illegal immigrants

Posted February 14, 2013
Updated February 15, 2013

— State transportation officials announced Thursday that they will begin issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards March 25 to some immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children but qualify under a federal program that blocks deportation and grants work permits.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program blocks deportation of and grants work permits to immigrants brought to the United States as minors without authorization. Eligible applicants include high school students, high school graduates, those with a GED and those who have served in the military and have no felony convictions or significant misdemeanors.

State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said the issue comes down to accountability and safety. The decision, he said, balances the rights of lawful citizens and those who have a newly accorded lawful status under the DACA program and wish to become citizens.

"They will be able to come in and get a driver's license. We will know who they are," Tata said. "They will have a license. They will have insurance, and it will make our roads safer." 

Mayra Aguilar, a student, said she signed a petition calling for a rule change. With Thursday's decision, she said she will now be eligible for a license.

"I hope to give my daughter a better future, and with this driver's license, I am able to do that," she said.

Those who can provide documentation that they qualify for DACA and for a North Carolina driver's license will receive a license that is marked with an expiration date that coincides with their deferred-action status. The license also will be vertically oriented instead of horizontal, feature a fuschia header instead of navy blue and be stamped with "limited term" and "no lawful status."

Mayra Aguilar Immigrants applaud DOT's decision to issue driver's licenses

From now until March 25, Tata said, license examiners across the state will be specially trained on the new program, and transportation officials will launch a communications campaign that informs DACA applicants on how to apply for a driver's license. Licensing software will also upgraded to produce the special license.

"We are focused on finding solutions to difficult issues," Tata said. "This is the best decision moving forward given the legal requirements we were handed."

In January, the Division of Motor Vehicles canceled the licenses of 13 people who had applied to the DACA program, saying they wanted a legal opinion from the Attorney General's Office on whether issuing the licenses would violate state law.

The Attorney General's Office issued an opinion days later, saying "individuals who present documentation demonstrating a grant of deferred action by the United States government are legally present in the United States and entitled to a driver's license of limited duration, assuming all other criteria are met."

Tata said Thursday that the DMV was acting on decisions made by former Gov. Beverly Perdue's administration in September that were never made public.

"Today is the first time I have made a decision on this policy," Tata said. "Gov. (Pat) McCrory was involved in the decision-making process and supports our way forward."

The Department of Homeland Security decides who qualifies for the DACA program. The program does not change immigrants' legal status, but does give them a temporary legal presence.


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  • MadMaxx Feb 18, 2013

    so lets get this straight, if it is a federal crime to cross the border illegally, and then they say that it is ok, then shouldn't bank robbery (federal crime) be ok as well. Exactly which laws are ok to break and which ones are not. Just seeking an answer.

  • Crumps Br0ther Feb 18, 2013

    Why are so many of you so riled about the voter ID. The opposition to such a simple problem tells me there is more too than people want to say.

  • Crumps Br0ther Feb 18, 2013

    maybe we should chuck ALL laws out the window because people are going to break the laws anyway. C'mon, come up with something better than THAT!

    You need to pay attention, a lot of laws are going unenforced for one reason or another. The crumbling continues

  • Blueboxinggloves Feb 15, 2013

    I am SO sick of the LAME argument that we should give illegal immigrants drivers licenses because "they are going to drive anyway". Using that stupid logic, maybe we should chuck ALL laws out the window because people are going to break the laws anyway. C'mon, come up with something better than THAT!

  • tsquaring Feb 15, 2013

    Deport them.

  • DaddysAngel27 Feb 15, 2013

    This is just wrong! You should have to be a U.S. Citizen to obtain a driver's license!

  • Terkel Feb 15, 2013

    If voter ID is an evil plot to keep minorities from voting, then having the polls open only one day and a workday at that, was all along an evil plot to deny working people their vote.

  • Terkel Feb 15, 2013

    When it comes to voter fraud, there's the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Voting twice, for example, violates both tenets. Busing in a group of old people from church with prefilled ballots, or "showing" them which way to vote, may not violate the letter but violates the spirit. JMHO.

  • RadioDJ Feb 15, 2013

    Cons just LOVE to trot out "Their" version of the Constitution and wave it all over the place while threatening to bring whatever pain they think is necessary when it suits THEIR purposes. But when they think it BENEFITS them to either ignore the Constitution or abandon it altogether, then it's "toss her out the winder buddy!". Voter ID laws which disallow any legitimate citizen of the United States from practicing their RIGHT to vote is in effect REVOKING the Constitutional RIGHT to vote. Now, if you mention a GUN to any of them, baby, look out! You be messin with THEIR rights. But as long as it's not "messin with sasquatch" they are fine with it. We have right wing parrots like crumpy here all day long talking about her rights, but it's okay to stomp all over everyone elses when she thinks it's about minorities or someone else. I'm just TICKLED that it's Republicans doing this so they only have themselves to blame on this issue.

  • junkmail5 Feb 15, 2013

    Voter ID: It's constitutional

    Not quite!

    So far the only voter ID that has stood up in higher courts is the one where you DO NOT NEED ID to vote.

    They can ASK for it.

    But if you don't have it you STILL get to vote, and just have to provide a signed form that you are who you say you are.

    Which is exactly as useful as the CURRENT system- but more expensive and cumbersome since the taxpayers have to do extra work to pay for those forms and pay to file them someplace...and pay to give free IDs to anyone who wants them (but still does not actually NEED them to vote).

    It's inferior to what we have now in every way.

    Nice job GOP!