A new North Carolina driver’s license set to be issued to some illegal immigrants has a bright pink stripe and the bold words “NO LAWFUL STATUS,” raising concerns about whether the design will brand those who show it.
The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles announced last week they would begin issuing the licenses March 25 following a lengthy legal review. The Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program grants valid federal work permits to qualified applicants brought to the U.S. as children without legal authorization.
Some Republican lawmakers in the state have balked at the idea, filing a bill Thursday to bar the DMV from granting the licenses until at least June.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina also takes issue with the designation.
“North Carolina should not be making it harder for aspiring citizens to integrate and contribute to our communities by branding them with a second-class driver’s license,” said ACLU attorney Raul Pinto. “There is simply no reason for officials to stigmatize people who are in the U.S. legally with an unnecessary marker that could lead to harassment, confusion, and racial profiling.”
The issue is especially politically charged in North Carolina, where current state law ordains a driver’s license will be issued to anyone who holds valid federal documentation of their “legal presence” in the United States.
The office of the state’s Democratic attorney general in an opinion last month said that under federal law, DACA participants have a “legal presence,” even if they do not have “lawful status.” Therefore, state law requires that DACA participants be granted licenses. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration agreed, announcing last week the DMV would begin issuing the licenses.
Among the concerns raised by Brody and other bill sponsors is that illegal immigrants might use their new licenses to access social programs or register to vote, despite the bright pink markings. An extensive 2011 review of the state’s 6.4 million registered voters by the N.C. Board of Elections found 12 instances where a non-citizen successfully cast a ballot.