Local News

Illegal immigrants say DMV should restore driver's licenses

Posted January 16, 2013 4:55 p.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2013 6:41 p.m. EST

— Immigration advocates are protesting the state Division of Motor Vehicles' decision to cancel the driver's licenses of several people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The DMV last week canceled the licenses of 13 people who have applied to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program until the North Carolina Attorney General's Office can determine whether issuing the licenses would violate state law.

The Attorney General's Office is gathering information on the issue from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and could issue an opinion next week, officials said.

The DACA program blocks deportation of and grants work permits to immigrants brought to the United States as minors without authorization.

"They are so messed up right now (about) everything that involves immigration," Cynthia Martinez, whose parents brought her to the U.S. when she was 2, said Wednesday.

Martinez said she has to get to her job at a Raleigh law office without a driver's license.

"I'm not afraid if I get pulled over, but that's just me," she said. "There's thousands of people that aren't in the same situation, and they are afraid to drive to work every day or they're afraid to go to the grocery store."

North Carolina typically grants driver's licenses to non-citizens with valid federal work papers, and the American Civil Liberties Union and the North Carolina Justice Center are urging the Attorney General's Office to determine that the licenses to DACA applicants are legal.

"We're very concerned because licenses have been granted to Deferred Action recipients in the past," said Raul Pinto, an ACLU attorney.

"You can imagine the ridiculousness of being told by the federal government, 'OK, you're authorized to work,' and then to be told by the state government, 'But you have to hitchhike there,'" said Isabel Barbarin, an attorney for a woman who had her license canceled.

DMV officials declined to comment until the Attorney General's Office issues its opinion.

Members of the North Carolina Dream Team, which supports young illegal immigrants, said they will march through downtown Raleigh next Tuesday to protest the DMV's move.