Charlotte, North Carolina – The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles has temporarily suspended issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as youngsters and who now qualify for a new program allowing them to stay and work in the country.
The program, commonly known as “deferred action” or DACA, is aimed at immigrants meant to benefit from the long-stalled DREAM Act, which provides a path to legalization for certain undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children. The Deferred Action policy lets these immigrants seek a renewable, two-year reprieve from deportation if they meet specific age, residency and education requirements.
The DMV is not processing driver's licenses for the Deferred Action beneficiaries "until (U.S.) Citizenship and Immigration Services defines what documents are acceptable as proof of legal residence in the country," spokesperson Margarett Howell told news agency EFE Wednesday.
But Homeland Security Department spokesperson Steve Blando told EFE that "the states, and not the federal government, decide whom to authorize driver's licenses for."
"All this confusion and change of policy in the North Carolina DMV is occurring when the new administration of the department by incoming Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is beginning," said Jose Rico, a member of the immigrant advocacy group, NC DREAM Team.
It is calculated that of 13,000 out of the 51,000 DREAMers in North Carolina who could benefit from Deferred Action.
In August, the DMV's Howell told McClatchy Newspapers that people who have qualified for Deferred Action would be eligible for driver's licenses.
But the rule change in North Carolina is still not clear and organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have begun monitoring the situation.
Four states -- Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska and Arizona --- have decided not to issue driver's licenses to Deferred Action beneficiaries.
In Iowa, a legislative committee is hearing arguments on an Iowa Department of Transportation policy that prohibits driver's licenses for certain young immigrants allowed by a new federal rule to live here.
The Administrative Rules Review Committee is considering Wednesday the DOT rule which doesn't allow driver's licenses or identification cards to be issued to immigrants brought into the U.S. as children by parents who were not legal residents.
The Iowa DOT says the policy doesn't make the immigrants legal citizens so it can't issue licenses.
The ACLU and other civil rights groups are fighting the DOT saying licenses should be granted.
The Associated Press and EFE contributed to this report.
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