St-Hilaire, et al. V. Commissioner of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles

St-Hilaire, et al. v. Commissioner of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles

On August 23, 2023, the ACLU of Indiana and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of five Haitian community members against the Commissioner of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), who is responsible for enforcing a discriminatory state driver’s license law. The lawsuit asserts that the Commissioner is violating the civil and constitutional rights of certain immigrants based on their country of origin. This case is part of NILC’s broader effort to expand immigrant access to driver’s licenses and state IDs.

In May 2023, Indiana enacted House Enrolled Act 1050 (H.E.A. 1050), which extended driver’s license and state ID eligibility to immigrants granted humanitarian parole—but only for certain Ukrainian parolees. The law excluded parolees from other countries. After H.E.A. 1050 passed, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) began enforcing the law by approving Ukrainian parolees for licenses and IDs, but denying parolees from other countries.

This discrimination is wrong and unlawful. U.S. law guarantees all people, regardless of their country of origin or race, equal protection under the law and prohibits states from discriminating on the basis of these protected grounds. States also cannot create their own immigration classifications—a power exclusively held by the federal government. Specifically, our lawsuit alleges that H.E.A. 1050 constitutes national-origin discrimination, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We also allege that the law, which attempts to define a federal immigration term (parole), is a state-created immigration classification, and thus preempted by federal law.

Latest Update

On January 11, 2024, Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted plaintiffs’ request for preliminary injunctive relief. The court found that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their equal protection claim and suffer imminent harm if preliminary relief is not granted. Additionally, the court found the balance of harms and public interest weigh in favor of granting relief.

The court’s order requires Indiana to remove unlawful restrictions on accessing driver’s licenses and state identification cards for residents living in Indiana under humanitarian parole.

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