The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles wants an opinion from the state attorney generals office on denying drivers licenses to illegal immigrants whove received federal deferrals from deportation. Attorney General Roy Cooper should provide that opinion without delay, and it should allow those young undocumented immigrants driving privileges.
Indeed, thats what the N.C. DMV said last summer it would do. Some offices already have. Advocates note that days after being accepted into a program that defers deportation of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, a number of deferred recipients got their drivers licenses at an N.C. DMV office. Advocates are now compiling a list of branches that are granting the licenses and are encouraging youth to continue seeking them.
Issuing the drivers licenses is the sensible thing for North Carolina to do. Under the deferred deportation program announced last June, the immigrants receive two-year work permits. But denying them a drivers license can cripple their ability to get and keep a job. Lacey Williams, youth program director at the Latin American Coalition, put it aptly: I dont know who they think will benefit to have this class of people who can now work but cannot drive. It just doesnt make sense.
It likely would also contribute to a dangerous problem that already exists illegal immigrants driving without licenses. Several serious sometimes fatal accidents have involved just such drivers. Being a licensed N.C. driver is no guarantee that those accidents wont still occur, but it does ensure that drivers know the rules and can drive well enough to pass the states driving tests. N.C. law already prevents illegal immigrants who dont qualify for the deferred deportation program from getting drivers licenses. That accounts in part for the current accident problems involving such drivers.
Groups opposed to President Obamas deportation policy cheered the N.C. DMV move. Ron Woodard, president of N.C. Listen, contends that the program unlawfully grants one group of illegal immigrants amnesty: Just because our president has done something unlawful doesnt mean our stat should also do something unlawful, he said.
But no court has deemed the presidents deferred deportation policy unlawful. As the nations chief executive, he can issue such an executive order.
Additionally, most states already allow noncitizens who hold work permits or who are granted deferred action to apply for drivers licenses, according to the Migration Policy Institute. North Carolina would join only Arizona, Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska in denying licenses to deferred action recipients.
North Carolina can look to Illinois for some guidance on this issue. On Friday, its state House passed legislation allowing all illegal immigrants drivers licenses. Lawmakers called it a public safety issue.
Undocumented immigrants are already driving on N.C. roads. The new deferred deportation program granting many of them permits to work means they will need transportation options. So this is also an issue of common sense. N.C. officials should use theirs in deciding this matter.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less