Not Pretty in Pink

By Jess George, Executive Director

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION HERE! The pink drivers licenses are a modern-day scarlet letter for DACA-recipients and all non-citizens in North Carolina. We demand that the NC DMV issue the same licenses to all North Carolinians.


In August 2012, the Federal Government launched Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which offers some undocumented young immigrants, brought to the U.S. as children, a work permit and a reprieve from deportation. The reasoning? These young people, who are American in every way except on paper, should be able to work, go to school, and drive legally in this country without fear of deportation.

This policy change restored the American dream for nearly one million young people and was the beginning of a bipartisan push for immigration reform at the national level.

Since the November elections, the national headlines have been filled with hopeful yet realistic messages from both parties about the importance of federal comprehensive immigration reform. There appears to be national consensus which recognizes that adjusting the status of undocumented immigrants currently working, studying, and paying taxes in our community is the ethically just and economically smart thing to do.

However, North Carolina has decided to buck the national trend of pragmatism in exchange for a new way to stigmatize and shame immigrants.

Rather than expediting the drivers license process for young immigrant students and workers, the North Carolina DMV spent months deciding if and how it should issue driver’s licenses to Deferred Action recipients- licenses it has historically issued without trouble. Now the NC DMV has rolled out a new ‘pink’ license that displays the recipient’s immigration status- reading in bold red letters NO LAWFUL STATUS.

Apparently these pink licenses will not just be for Deferred Action recipients. The NC DMV admitted to the Winston-Salem Journal that it plans to issue similar licenses for ALL non-citizens in North Carolina. That’s right- legal permanent residents, immigrants on student and work visas, folks who are here with Temporary Protective Status- may soon carry licenses that clearly distinguish them as non-citizens.

It is hard to fathom why policy makers, who are acutely aware of North Carolina’s financial crisis, would justify spending untold amounts of taxpayer dollars on developing a new license, and the subsequent bureaucracy, training, and materials required to implement it. A spokesperson from the DMV revealed one possible motivation by stating, “you would know that someone who has the pink bar at the top, they do not have the right to vote.” If the new licenses for non-citizens are being created as a proxy for a voter ID, the implications extend far beyond immigrants. In coming months, who else will be issued a different license? Felons? Drivers under 18?

Furthermore, these new driver’s licenses feel like a modern day scarlet letter- publicly marking people as different or even second-class. Distinct licenses that prominently display immigration status open the door to discrimination and are a violation of privacy.  Does the grocery store cashier need to know someone’s immigration status? Does the bank teller?

Immigrants have been receiving licenses in North Carolina for a long time. Making a distinction between immigrants and citizens on NC licenses creates an ugly “us vs. them” climate that only divides our communities. It appears that policy makers have allowed their fear of difference guide them to create myopic and discriminatory policies without thought to the financial and perhaps legal consequences.

Let’s be honest North Carolina, pink just isn’t our color.


PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION HERE! The pink drivers licenses are a modern-day scarlet letter for DACA-recipients and all non-citizens in North Carolina. We demand that the NC DMV issue the same licenses to all North Carolinians.