Federal Court Orders Indiana to Allow Access to Driver’s Licenses for Residents with Humanitarian Protections Regardless of Country of Origin

January 11, 2024

Emily Morris, National Immigration Law Center, 213-457-7458, [email protected]
Ariella Sult, ACLU of Indiana, 317-759-6425, [email protected]

Federal Court Orders Indiana to Allow Access to Driver’s Licenses for Residents with Humanitarian Protections Regardless of Country of Origin

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A federal district court in Indiana today entered a preliminary injunction ordering the state to remove restrictions on accessing Indiana driver’s licenses or identification cards for residents who live in the state under federal humanitarian protections, while the case moves forward. 

The decision comes after the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU of Indiana) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) filed a lawsuit in August 2023 on behalf of five Indiana residents from Haiti who live and work under federal humanitarian protections and who want to get an Indiana driver’s license or identification card. The law in question, H.E.A. 1050, is an Indiana law that created a pathway for individuals on humanitarian parole to obtain Indiana driver’s licenses or identification cards, but only if they are from Ukraine.    

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs argue that H.E.A. 1050 represents national origin discrimination and is unconstitutional. 

“A driver’s license is necessary for me to get to work and be a fully independent member of my community, particularly in rural Indiana where I live,” said Jeffson St-Hilaire, a plaintiff who resides in Hancock County. “I am relieved by today’s decision, which will help me be self-reliant and give back to my community. I plan to continue advocating for justice alongside the other plaintiffs, because getting a driver’s license should be dependent on following the rules of the road, not on the country where you were born. Today’s decision is a step forward in the direction of justice, equality, and the fundamental rights of our community. It sends a powerful message that everyone, regardless of their immigration status or country of origin, deserves equal treatment.” 

In addition to claiming national origin discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the lawsuit asserts that the new law, known as H.E.A. 1050, is a state-created immigration classification, and thus preempted by federal law.  

 “This injunction upholds the principles underlying the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by rejecting Indiana’s blatant attempt to discriminate against persons based on where they are from,” said Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana senior attorney. “We will continue to pursue this case to ensure that Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians have an equal opportunity to support their families, and communities.” 

“Today’s decision reaffirms what we and many Hoosiers already know to be true: All of us, no matter where we were born, should be able to safely get to where we need to go in our communities,” said Nicholas Espíritu, an attorney with NILC. “A driver’s license is crucial for people to go to work, pick their kids up from school, visit the doctor’s office, and get to other essential places. Blocking people from getting a driver’s license because of where they were born, in addition to being unconstitutional and unjust, hurts community safety. We will continue to fight for the ability of all Hoosiers to access a driver’s license or state ID.” 

The full text of the decision is available here: https://www.aclu-in.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/dkt_45_-_order_granting_motion_for_pi.pdf