Scarlet Letter licenses? Give me one, too.

By Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center

Dear Mr. Tata,

Please consider this letter my application for a driver’s license.

Yes, I already have a North Carolina driver’s license. But if current policy remains unchanged, I will feel wrong about using it, and I will want a different kind of license.

The Department of Motor Vehicles was advised earlier this year that it was legally obligated to provide driver’s licenses for undocumented youth. These immigrant youth, eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, were brought here as children and as a result lack official legal status. While federal officials work on a long-overdue fix to our broken immigration system, it makes sense to follow the law and promote safety on our state’s roads by permitting these young people to apply for licenses.

Thankfully, the DMV chose to do so, and I’m grateful for this.

What I’m not grateful for is the inexplicable decision to issue a different driver’s license – one that seems intended to shame and stigmatize immigrant youth.

On March 25, DMV will beginning issuing licenses with a high-profile pink banner and bright red letters that say “NO LAWFUL STATUS” and “LIMITED TERM.”

Let’s be honest. There’s no legal or practical reason to do this. This move is merely intended to affix a virtual scarlet letter to young people who just want to do the right thing and be a part of the system. They need licenses for the same reason we all do: to go to school, to go to work, to get groceries, to help family members.

And for these simple human needs, we’re going to force them to take a document that smacks of discrimination? This isn’t right, and it isn’t just, and it isn’t necessary.

But if DMV insists on issuing these petty, divisive licenses later this month, I can think of only one way to take the discriminatory sting out. That’s if a large number of other North Carolinians demand they be issued the pink licenses as well.

This is my formal application for my DACA license. If you’re going to give them to my friends, my neighbors, the people I know and trust in my community, you’re going to have to give one to me, too.

I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t a political statement. It is. But the request for a different license is quite literal and sincere. If driver’s licenses are being used to shame and stigmatize my friends and neighbors, how can I feel good about carrying one around in my wallet?

To be clear, I’d prefer not to have to ask for this. I’d prefer for our state agencies to follow legal guidance to issue driver’s licenses without spite. I’d prefer those state agencies, which are intended to serve all of us, to treat all of us with equal respect.

If that’s not going to happen from the top, though, it has to happen from bottom. Maybe all of us demanding to have our own pink licenses is the way to go.

So, when should I expect mine?

This is a guest post from Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications at the NC Justice Center. It originally appeared on the NC Policy Watch blog.

A driving test for the McCrory administration

By Clayton Henkel, NC Policy Watch/ NC Justice Center

A week after the North Carolina Attorney General’s office said young immigrants who are “lawfully present” to be here are qualified to receive driver’s licenses, the matter is still under review by the state Transportation Department.

The delay has editorial boards chiming-in with a unified voice – that it’s time for the McCrory administration to end the foot-dragging.

The Charlotte Observer writes this morning:

‘As governor of a state that’s neither decidedly red nor blue, Pat McCrory is going to spend much of the next four years being tugged at by starkly disparate perspectives on issues. The first such test of his administration has already presented itself: Should North Carolina issue driver’s licenses to [undocumented] immigrants who are participants in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program?’

‘…it leaves McCrory with a choice. He can take the sensible route, acknowledge that no one has declared deferred action status unlawful, and order the DMV to issue the driver’s licenses. Or he can side with the unreasonable voices who don’t want to give an inch on illegal immigration. The decision McCrory makes will offer a clue about what kind of North Carolina we’ll all live in for the next four years.’

The Winston-Salem Journal puts it more succinctly:

‘Gov. Pat McCrory and his commissioner of motor vehicles have a clear choice regarding driver’s licenses for non-citizens who hold valid working papers: They can posture politically to appease their political base or they can obey the law.’

And finally The Durham Herald-Sun puts the issue squarely on the shoulders of Transportation Sec. Tony Tata:

‘New Transportation Secretary Tony Tata has not yet said whether he will instruct DMV to comply with that ruling.

He should. Republicans nationally are recognizing that a more generous approach to immigration reform is in the party’s best interests politically – Tata has an opportunity to acknowledge that in this instance.’

You can read the full editorials here, here, and here.

This is a guest post from Clayton Henkel, Communications Coordinator for NC Policy Watch and the NC Justice Center. It originally appeared on the NC Policy Watch blog, The Progressive Pulse.

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.