Driver’s Licenses for Michigan DREAMers

February 1, 2013

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), (213) 674-2832; [email protected]
Vesna Jaksic, ACLU national, (212) 284-7347 or 549-2666; [email protected]
Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan, (616) 301-0930; [email protected]

Michigan Reverses Policy, Issues Driver’s Licenses to DREAMers

Victory for immigrant youth should resonate in other states

DETROIT — A coalition of civil rights organizations welcomed the Michigan secretary of state’s decision today to drop an unlawful policy that prevented young immigrants brought to the country as children — commonly known as DREAMers — from receiving driver’s licenses and identification cards in the state.

The coalition, which includes the National Immigration Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a federal lawsuit in December asking a court to rule that recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are legally authorized to be in the United States and, therefore, are eligible for licenses. Today’s decision comes just two weeks after the federal government issued guidance confirming that DREAMers are authorized to live and work in the country.

Tanya Broder, senior attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, said: “Michigan today reached a decision that is legally and morally sound. Their decision provides DREAMers with deferred action the opportunity to contribute more fully to their communities and to their families. Arizona and Nebraska, which continue to deny driver’s licenses to DREAMers, should take note: they are among a dwindling number of states that stand on the wrong side of history and the law.”

Miriam Aukerman, staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, said: “Today’s announcement is a tremendous victory for the thousands of young people who may not have been born here, however have only known this country to be home. They have the same dreams as other young Americans — contribute to their communities and make a difference in the world. Last June, the federal government gave them a chance to fulfill these dreams. Today, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is helping to make their dreams a reality. We look forward to dismissing our lawsuit and turning the page to a more welcoming and inclusive Michigan.”

Michael Tan, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said: “We’re thrilled that DREAMers in Michigan will now be able to get driver’s licenses, so they can continue going to classes, keep their jobs and help their families. The small fraction of states that are still considering banning DREAMers from the roads should do the same. Our national leaders have acknowledged the need to enact a common-sense, humane immigration plan, and what better way for states to move in that direction than by passing policies that welcome, rather than marginalize, our hard-working immigrant youth.”

NILC, the ACLU, and other partners have also filed a lawsuit against Arizona’s unlawful policy prohibiting youth from getting driver’s licenses. While the vast majority of states are issuing licenses to DREAMers, Arizona and Nebraska have barred DACA recipients from obtaining licenses. In addition to Michigan, Iowa recently agreed that DACA recipients are eligible for licenses, and Illinois made licenses available to all residents regardless of immigration status. The attorney general of North Carolina has also clarified that DACA recipients are eligible for driver’s licenses, but DMV officials in that state have yet to confirm that they will be making licenses available.

To read more about the Michigan and Arizona cases, go