DACA recipients and driver’s licenses in North Carolina

By Armando Bellmas, Director of Communications

UPDATE – January 17, 2013: NC Attorney General says DACA recipients should get drivers licenses

In August of 2012, the Department of Homeland Security began the policy of granting deferred action to undocumented young people who met very specific criteria. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy permits individuals who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and who meet other age, education, continuous presence, and criminal history–related requirements to remain in the U.S. for a renewable two-year period and to apply for work authorization.

For many of these young people, the ability to obtain a driver’s license is essential- to go to work, school, care for their families, and serve the public interest by being trained, tested, and insured drivers.

However, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has started denying the privilege of obtaining driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. Even after several DACA recipients in North Carolina received driver’s licenses in the last few months on 2012.

The DMV released this statement on January 15, 2013:

In early September of 2012, North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles experts raised concerns that the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program might not conform with North Carolina law. On September 10, 2012, out of an abundance of caution, DMV officials requested a legal opinion from the North Carolina Attorney General’s office and decided to stop issuing driver licenses to applicants under the DACA program until a legal opinion was issued.  

In the meantime, the DMV has cancelled each license it awarded to DACA recipients. Their statement continues:

An internal review of DMV’s records late last week, however, revealed that 13 licenses had been unintentionally issued to applicants in the DACA program before federal database updates were complete.

To maintain consistency of policy, the DMV mailed notification to these applicants on Jan. 11 letting them know their licenses were issued in error; therefore, their driving privileges have been cancelled. Once the AG’s office issues an opinion, a determination about issuing licenses to DACA applicants will be made. 

DACA recipients who are granted deferred action and obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) and Social Security numbers fit well within the general rules for driver’s license issuance in almost every state, including North Carolina. They undergo background and identity checks, submit biometrics, and prove residency to qualify for DACA. They should be able to obtain North Carolina driver’s licenses.

While denying DACA recipients the privilege to receive driver’s licenses is at the state’s discretion- Arizona and Michigan, for instance, have created special rules making DACA recipients ineligible for driver’s licenses- doing so is outright discrimination.

We demand Attorney General Roy Cooper and the NC DMV do the right thing in North Carolina and grant driver’s licenses to DACA recipients immediately.


Have you been received deferred action yet been denied a driver’s license or had it cancelled? Contact us and we’ll try to help you.


Top 10 Latin American and Spanish Films

by Tony Arreaza, Cultural Events Director

Some people think I have the coolest job in the world. Well, I do. I’m the Cultural Events Director for the Latin American Coalition and my day-to-day responsibilities include discovering new music, mingling with world-renowned artists, organizing unforgettable events, and doing it all for an incredible cause- promoting equal opportunity and access for all of Charlotte’s residents.

Over the last few years, I have been working on developing an event that showcases and celebrates Latin American and Spanish films in Charlotte. This has been a long process and thanks to the incredibly hardworking team at La Coalición, I am delighted to announce that in March we will be launching CineMás: A Latino Film Series.

To celebrate, here are my top ten favorite Latin American and Spanish films:

Amores Perros (México, 2000)


Central do Brasil (Brazil, 1998)


Diario de Motocicleta (México, 2003)


El Hijo de la Novia (Argentina, 2001)


El Laberinto del Fauno (Spain/ México, 2006)


El Orfanato (Spain, 2007)


Hable con Ella (Spain, 2002)


Hermano (Venezuela, 2010)


Machuca (Chile, 2004)


Y Tu Mama También (México, 2001)


If you haven’t seen these films, I definitely suggest that you check them out. And stay tuned for CineMás in March.

Clases de inglés

By Armando Bellmas, Director of Communications

¿Está listo para aprender o mejorar su inglés? La Coalición lo puede ayudar con clases de inglés como segunda idioma o la clases ESL, como se conocen en inglés. La nueva temporada de clases de inglés comenzará el 5 de febrero del 2013 y dura 10 semanas.

Antes de comenzar las clases se requiere que cada estudiante tome una prueba de aptitud. Este examen determinará en cual nivel cada estudiante se colocará: Básico, Principiante, Intermedio o Avanzado. El nivel Básico es para la gente que no hablan o entienden el inglés. El nivel Principiante 1 es para los estudiantes que hablan o entienden un poco de inglés, pero no pueden comunicarse con regularidad. Intermedio es para los estudiantes que hablan y entienden el inglés con confianza y quieren aprender más sobre gramática y conversación. El nivel Avanzado es para los estudiantes que ya se comunican bien en inglés y quieren fortalecer la gramática, comprensión y conversación.

La prueba de aptitud es gratis, dura alrededor de 30 minutos, y no hay que reservar un puesto o hacer cita para tomarla. Los exámenes de prueba de aptitud en inglés se llevarán a cabo aquí en La Coalición en el horario siguiente:

Martes, 8 de enero a las 6:00 pm
Jueves, 10 de enero a las 6:00 pm
Martes, 15 de enero a las 6:00 pm
Jueves, 17 de enero a las 6:00 pm

Después del exámen le diremos cual nivel le recomendamos. El costo de las clases de inglés es $60 e incluye el libro de estudio y un certificado de participación. El horario de clases, que comenzarán el 5 de febrero, se anunciará pronto.

Si tiene cualquier pregunta sobre los exámenes de aptitud, las clases de inglés, el horario, el currículo o los instructores comuníquese con Silvia Falconi al 704-941-2547 o por correo electrónico a sfalconi@latinamericancoalition.org.

Justice Department files suit Against Alamance County Sheriff’s Department

Terry Johnson

The Department of Justice has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson, three months after it released a comprehensive investigative report which alleged a practice of racial profiling and discrimination by the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) against Latinos in Alamance County.

“This is an abuse of power case involving a sheriff who misuses his position of authority to unlawfully target Latinos in Alamance County,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Sheriff Johnson’s directives and leadership have caused ACSO to violate the constitutional rights of Latinos in Alamance County and eroded public trust in ACSO.”

The Justice Department seeks a court enforceable, comprehensive, written agreement that will ensure long term structural, cultural and institutional change at ACSO.

This kind of discrimination and public policy, no matter how secret or unwritten, has no place in North Carolina. The ACSO has tarnished the reputation of our state. Shame on you, Sheriff Johnson. Our North Carolina welcomes everyone and treats them with the dignity and respect we all deserve. That’s the kind of place we will continue to uplift North Carolina to be.

Get more information on the evidence and read the details of the lawsuit here.

On Bed Bugs

By Luisa Dexheimer, Resource Center Volunteer/ Intern

We recently organized and hosted a workshop to address the growing problem of bed bugs in the community. Our goal was to educate and inform and we did so by bringing in a leading expert in bed bugs, Dr. Jung Kim. Dr. Kim is an entomologist, environmental senior specialist, and medical entomologist and works with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDACS). He generously offered these words of advice.

I visited Charlotte, NC to work with the Latin American Coalition in November. I gave a presentation on bed bugs, of course. The presentation lasted about two hours including questions and answers. We discussed how to recognize and prevent bed bugs in Charlotte. Tenants should be aware of bed bugs and their signs of infestation. Both landlords and tenants need to be educated on bed bug issue.

Things that everybody should know about bed bugs:

Bed bugs are feed on blood, exclusively.

They are not known to be a vector, so it is not likely they would transfer human disease.

Bed bugs are small, but large enough for us to see; therefore, you can detect them easily with your naked eyes. You just need to know where to look.

Bed bugs can travel 5 – 20 ft when they are hungry. Consequently, they can move to a next door.

Bed bugs are resistant to some pesticides.

Bed bugs live about 3 – 6 months without blood feeding.

Remember that all the basic information about bed bugs is extremely important, because bed bugs are certainly challenging pest to control and manage for anybody.

Learn bed bug morphology, biology and behavior. Learn their insecticide resistance.

— Dr. Jung Kim

For more information on bed bugs, visit ncbedbugs.com.

In-state tuition for TPS Students in North Carolina

By Armando Bellmas, Director of Communications

As a result of an administrative appeal and lawsuit filed by the NC Justice Center, both the University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College System have changed their prior policies that prevented otherwise eligible Temporary Protected Status (TPS) students from obtaining in-state tuition status. This will result in a much lower tuition cost, making it easier for low income immigrant families with TPS to send their children to UNC or a North Carolina community college, should they be admitted. This policy change is effective immediately.

Should a TPS student who has been admitted to UNC or a community college be otherwise eligible for in-state tuition, she or he should now be charged tuition at the lower in-state rate. A clarifying memo to UNC and NCCCS campuses will be issued in the next month or two. Anyone wanting more information about this favorable policy change should contact Jack Holtzman at the NC Justice Center.

Montgomery Bus Boycott as a blueprint for social change

By Lacey Williams, Youth Programs Manager

Fifty-seven years ago this week, something remarkable was stirring in Montgomery, Alabama. A seamstress named Rosa Parks would change the course of history by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in the deep South. Her act would set in motion a pivotal win for the Civil Rights Movement, would launch an iconic figure in Martin Luther King, Jr, and would be a source for the one of the most widely known, yet mostly misunderstood, stories that we tell about social change.

There is a lot we can glean from the myth of Rosa Parks and more still that we can learn from the truth of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The Myth

As a child, I once imagined her as this old, hobbled figure who was very, very tired, so tired in fact that she brazenly sat in the front of bus and refused to move.

I had imagined that Ms. Parks was the only person who stood up to injustice on the buses in Montgomery, that she had acted on impulse and that the bus boycott took a week to be completed.

The last vision I had from this story was of a young Martin Luther King, Jr., regally rising and taking up the mantle of change and fearlessly ending, almost single handedly, segregation in Montgomery.

As a child, I was in awe of the courage and perfectness of Saint Rosa and Saint Martin. Those were people I could aspire to be, but never really believed I could. The myth gives us larger than life heroes, who are infallible, who make haste of social change, who act out of impulse. I didn’t see myself in the story.

The Truth

The reality of the Montgomery Bus Boycott is a story about ordinary people rising to the challenge of doing something that seemed insurmountable.

Rosa Parks wasn’t the first. Claudette Colvin, Aurelia S. Browder, Susie McDonald and Mary Louise Smith refused to give up their seats prior to Rosa Parks. Their cases would make up Browder v. Gayle, the desegregation case decided by the Supreme Court in 1956.

Not just tired. In interviews later in life, Rosa Parks said that the only tired she was “was tired of giving in.”   To suggest Rosa Parks was just tired negates the reality of what living in a Jim Crow south might be like for an oppressed person. It strips Rosa Parks of her context.

It wasn’t planned, but they were prepared. Jo Ann Gibson Robinson wrote a letter to the mayor of Montgomery in 1954 warning of a bus boycott after the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in education. By 1955, the Women’s Political Council of the Montgomery NAACP had plans for such a boycott. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and other members of the Montgomery NAACP were trained in civil disobedience and organizing at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, TN earlier that year as part of a larger, coordinated strategy for challenging segregation in the South. Rosa Parks was politically involved with the NAACP. Though Rosa Parks’ decision not to give up her seat wasn’t planned, she was steadied by her training and the community was prepared to support her case and the resulting boycott.

The boycott’s success rested on a cast of ordinary heroes rather than any single individual. True, Martin Luther King was selected to lead the boycott, but he was very hesitant to step up, citing his young children and family. There were also many more leaders involved, many of whom have been forgotten.

The boycott had leaders, old and young, and mostly behind the scenes. Such folks were Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, who mimeographed 35,000 handbills warning people to stay off the buses in Montgomery the night of Parks’ arrest; ED Nixon, the local NAACP president who encouraged Martin Luther King to lead the boycott; Fred Gray, Ms. Parks’ 25 year old lawyer, who filed Browder v. Gayle; Claudette Colvin, the teenager who first refused to give up her seat and became a plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle; and Bayard Rustin, master strategist, who convinced King to use nonviolence as a tactic.

The movement had allies like Virginia Durr, who organized white women who were against segregation and encouraged Rosa Parks to attend training at Highlander Folk School. Her husband, Clifford Durr, was a lawyer who assisted on cases and helped bail Rosa Parks out of jail. Reverend Robert Graetz was a reverend of an African-American Lutheran church and publicly supported the boycott. And random white women in Montgomery who, perhaps fueled by self interest, played a pivotal role driving domestic workers to and from work each day.

The true heroes of the movement were the faces without names. They were black taxi drivers who dropped their fare rates in order to accommodate boycotters and risked arrest. The community women who provided logistics and infrastructure for all strategy meetings. And most importantly, the boycotters, perhaps the most unsung of them all, who were average African-American workers who sacrificed a great deal by refusing to ride the buses.

It took over a year to reach success. The boycott lasted 381 days. What started out as a demand for better conditions, ended in a demand for complete desegregation. Started December 1, 1955 with Rosa Parks’ galvanizing arrest, the boycott ended on December 20, 1956 with the Supreme Court ruling that bus segregation was unconstitutional.


The lessons from this pivotal event in Civil Rights history are clear. Change does not happen in a vacuum. It takes patience, perseverance, effort, and, often, a long time. Change requires planning, training, and good organizing. And, often, change requires the help of allies.

I think the most important lesson we can learn, if we disengage from the hero worship of Rosa Parks and King, is that we can all be a part of change. Sure, maybe I’m not Martin Luther King, but I could imagine myself as Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, thoughtfully preparing for the right moment, spurred into action and catalyzing a movement from behind the scenes.

And you? Could you be a taxi driver? Could you be a boycotter? We all have a role to play and we are at our best when we are using our skills and talents wisely in the service of social justice.

The reduction of this story to one that is centered around a few heroes acting impulsively is not a coincidence. There is a reason the history books don’t tell you about Jo Ann Robinson or Claudette Colvin. The Montgomery Bus Boycott story, if told completely, is a blueprint for social change. If we can start seeing ourselves in this story, then maybe we will individually be able to realize our power. And if we can realize our power, then we will be strong enough to demand what is ours. And, possibly, change the world.

Isaide Serrano’s deportation case canceled

By Armando Bellmas, Director of Communications

Two years ago, Isaide Serrano was pulled over by a police officer for driving with her high-beams on. Isaide, an undocumented mother of 5 U.S. citizen children and resident of the Charlotte area for almost 20 years, did not have a valid driver’s license. The police officer told Isaide he was going to make an example out of her for being an “illegal” and driving without a license- an offense most of us would just get a citation for-  and arrested her. As a result of a 287(g) agreement with the Department of Homeland Security, Isaide- a mother, wife, homemaker, and taxpayer with no previous run-ins with the law- was put into deportation proceedings. Even worse, she faced being permanently separated from her children.

Today, after a two-year ordeal and several court hearings, Isaide received a deportation cancelation from an immigration court judge in Charlotte. Barring an appeal by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)- which is unlikely at this point- Isaide will be able to process her lawful permanent resident card as soon as she receives a written decision from the judge. More important, Isaide will get to stay in the Charlotte area with her husband and family, which as of today also includes her newborn son.

Isaide’s courage and strength are an inspiration. She was pregnant with her 6th child during these last long and arduous months of deportation proceedings. As luck would have it, she went into labor about 12 hours before her final deportation hearing and gave birth to a beautiful boy at 5:08 this morning, just hours before her 10:00 a.m. court appearance. Her doctor agreed to let her leave the hospital temporarily for her hearing (which the immigration court judge advised her not to miss, regardless of her condition). Upon arrival and before entering the courtroom, Isaide briefly appeared before the large crowd of friends, fellow Familias Unidas and community members, and news media that had gathered in support.

After the immigration court judge’s swift decision to cancel her removal, Isaide greeted the news media and her supporters for a quick statement and celebration before returning to the hospital to be with her newborn son and family. Together with her family, where she should be on this joyous day. And where she will stay.

We are so happy for Isaide Serrano and her family. We are energized from this big victory in our work to keep mixed-status families together in our community.

Clowning Around

By Lacey Williams, Youth Programs Manager

When I heard that neo-Nazis were coming to town, it made me angry. There was no way I was going to let white supremacists come to my town unopposed. As the youth director of the Latin American Coalition, I see the daily toll that hate has on immigrant youth. It wasn’t even a question of would we act, it was only a question of how.

After much consulting with our immigrant youth leaders and a few national partners, we settled on a clown theme and quickly discovered a similar action had taken place in Knoxville, TN a few years ago. We figured this was something we could really run with and let our senses of humor go wild. We reached out to some allies in other communities and, of course, created a Facebook event. Through word of mouth our event just seemed to explode and tickle the imaginations of Charlotteans and North Carolinians.

Don’t Ignore Hate

During the planning process, most of the feedback we got was very supportive, but some folks were really encouraging us to not address the event. They said we would only bring the white supremacists more coverage and that we would lend credence to their message.

We disagreed, wholeheartedly.

One of the most important things to know about hate is that when left unaddressed it doesn’t just go away. As a gay person, I know the pain of someone spewing anti-gay hate speech and watching people just walk by like nothing is happening. When good people do nothing to stop hate then they also become culpable for the damage it does. And something that became clear to me before the protest was that their hate was going to get coverage no matter if we showed up or not.

When I woke up Saturday morning I had an unexpected message. It was from an acquaintance of mine who is a rabbi in Charlotte, and someone I deeply admire. The message read, “I can’t be at today’s protest event because it is Shabbat and I have other commitments but I wanted to let you know how deeply I appreciate your organizing this event. So much of my family was wiped out in the Holocaust. I am named for one of my father’s aunts who died in Auschwitz. The thought of a neo-Nazi event in Charlotte makes me sick. Thank you.”

I thought to myself. “That. That is why we are doing this today.” Let us resolve to always live in a community where hate never goes unchallenged.

It’s About Intersections

As we were preparing for our protest and learning more about the hate groups involved- the National Socialist Movement (NSM) and the Ku Klux Klan- it was quite clear that these groups went beyond just hating immigrants. Sure, the rally was focused on “illegal immigration,” and that is one of the reasons the Latin American Coalition took the lead in organizing a counter protest. But when you looked into the platform of the NSM, their ultimate goal is to limit immigration to whites, heterosexuals, and, presumably, Christians. The KKK also has similar sentiments. Furthermore, the NSM would like the government to forcibly remove all non-whites from the U.S.

As a person who works in immigrant rights work, I work with students who have multiple identities- gay, undocumented, working class, non-gender conforming. There is no clearer place where the intersection of identities lives than in the ideology of these types of hate groups. They don’t just hate gay people or just hate immigrants, they hate different. We have to do a better job, as advocates that represent different oppressed communities, of coming together and speaking out against hate. The Latin American Coalition will work harder to bring people together to work for collective liberation from oppression and for inclusive access to social and civic institutions.

Humor, Not Hate

When we were deciding how to respond to hate in our community, humor seemed to be the right tone. Any other response would have told the NSM and KKK that we took them seriously.

The truth is there were counter protesters who yelled obscenities at the Nazis. There were people looking for a fight. Those tactics don’t move our country forward. Violence discredits our message and allows the media to create a false equivalency that both sides are “full of hate.”

A fellow advocate in the community told me that though it is important for us to counter anti-immigrants in our community, it is also imperative that we not “become them.” We can’t ever lose our humanity in the fight for social justice and we can’t reduce the humanity of our adversaries either.

It’s Time for Reform

This protest has captured the hearts and minds of many people across our state and across the country. In a time of unrest, relentless partisanship, and ‘post-racial’ racism, it’s often difficult for people to come together about anything, let alone immigration issues. I’m willing to bet 20 clown noses that there were a few people standing with us who really didn’t know how they felt about immigration.

But the point is that most people know how they feel about blatant hate. We can’t ignore that much of the fuel of the anti-immigrant fire is hate, xenophobia and racism. We have serious work to do in reforming our immigration policy and 65% of voters in the recent election said they favored a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. That’s 65% of Americans who disagree with the NSM and the Klan.

For the other 35%, go ahead and come on over to our side of the fence. It’s the right side of history. And we have better jokes.


Help us continue to make Charlotte, North Carolina a more welcoming place. Make an impact now.


[Photos courtesy of chascow, qnotes, and Yash Mori.]