Posted on May 12, 2005

Court Rejects DMV Practice of Taking Illegal Immigrants’ Licenses

Michael Gormley, AP, May 10

ALBANY, N.Y. — A state judge on Tuesday ruled the state Department of Motor Vehicles can’t revoke the driver’s licenses of as many as 252,000 illegal immigrants because they haven’t secured Social Security cards.

The DMV “may not use immigration status” to deny licenses, according to the decision by state Supreme Court Justice Karen Smith. “Plaintiffs have faced and will continue to face serious injuries if these practices continue.”

The state will appeal, said DMV Commissioner Raymond Martinez.

The court said DMV lacks the authority to carry out the practice that could only be enacted by a legislature. The judge also rejected the state’s “temporary visitor” program begun in 2003, which provided temporary licenses with expiration dates based on a person’s immigration status. The driver’s license would expire even if the immigrant was entitled to an automatic renewal of authorization to remain in the United States.


The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which won the case, said it will benefit immigrants and send a warning to states rewriting driver’s license requirements as part of a federal homeland security measure.

“There are large numbers of people who have been working in this country for many years who need a driver’s license to be able to work, to get to medical care, to drive their kids to school,” said Cesar Perales, who is president of the fund. “All of this is imperiled by laws that say you will not be able to drive legally.”