More than 45 protesters gathered in uptown Charlotte Thursday to demonstrate against controversial drivers licenses that will be issued to immigrants whove been granted federal protection from deportation for two years.
In North Carolina, the licenses, which will be issued to an estimated 18,000 young people, will read No lawful status on the front and back and will have a pink header instead of the standard blue.
Critics of the design of the licenses say they could cause trouble for immigrants whove been granted deferred action status by the Obama administration meaning their presence in the U.S. is temporary but legal.
Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed off on the licenses, has said he thought it was important that the drivers licenses for immigrants clearly distinguish between legal presence versus legal status.
McCrory said he wanted to make sure the licenses were granted but also ensure that they clearly differed in appearance from other licenses issued by the state to prevent misuse.
Led by the Latin American Coalition, the activists protested on each corner of the square at Trade and Tryon streets, each wearing a pink I. Elver Barrios, community organizer for United 4 the Dream, said the Is represented something like the Scarlet Letter.
Having these licenses is just another form of discrimination, he said. Carrying them is branding us, just like they branded the Jewish people in the 1940s.
Jess George, executive director of the coalition, said the protest only brought positive reactions from Charlotteans.
We are standing in the middle of this city, with all these beautiful skyscrapers, and immigrants are the ones who built them, she said. When people pass by us and hear what we are protesting, they cant believe it.
She says the licenses will create further discrimination for the Latino community.
I think creating the licenses is a visible statement that immigrants are different from the rest of us, she said. It sets a dangerous precedent and opens the door to racial profiling and discrimination. Staff writer Cleve R. Wootson Jr. contributed.