Raleigh, N.C. — When the state Division of Motor Vehicles begins issuing driver's licenses to young illegal immigrants next week, the licenses won't bear a pink stripe that has caused outrage among immigrants, their advocates and some lawmakers.
Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said last month that participants in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would receive a special license that included a fuschia header instead of navy blue and be stamped with "Limited Term" and "No Lawful Status."
Advocates said the different license would stigmatize the bearers and could lead to racial profiling. Gov. Pat McCrory and others said, however, that the distinctive license would keep illegal immigrants from voting or applying for government benefits.
A sample license the DMV sent out Thursday as part of its reminder that the agency would begin issuing DACA driver's licenses next Monday showed a license with the traditional blue stripe. The license also bears the phrase "Legal Presence" in front of "No Lawful Status."
The license still would expire when a person's deferred-action status ends.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the removal of the bright stripe "a huge step in the right direction." But a group of North Carolina rabbis said they would still deliver a message of protest about the DACA licenses to McCrory on Friday.
DACA 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.
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.
The DMV suspended issuing licenses to DACA participants last fall, saying it wanted a legal opinion on whether issuing licenses to the illegal immigrants would violate state law.
The Attorney General's Office issued an opinion in January, 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 last month that issuing the DACA licenses would improve safety and accountability. The state would know who the drivers are, and they would be required to obtain insurance, he said.