GREENSBORO, N.C. — In line with the North Carolina state attorney general’s opinion, the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing driver’s licenses to some illegal immigrants.
Residents who are participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, will qualify to get licenses because they are now considered to have a “legal presence” in the United States.
DACA participants are those whose parents brought them into the U.S. illegally and meet certain federal criteria, including age, to stay in the U.S. legally for up to two years on a work permit. Their deportation is deferred.
In response to their new legal presence, North Carolina leaders say the teenagers and young adults in DACA will be able to obtain a driver’s license.
Leaders also say the cards will help prevent ID and voter fraud.
The license will be printed with a pink stripe at the top and the words “No Lawful Status” on the card.
Some immigrants are speaking out against the wording on the license, saying it’s a discriminatory invasion of privacy.
Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page believes the license benefits DACA residents, especially if they are pulled over and asked for I.D.
“If he has an identification,” explained Sheriff Page, “There’s a better chance he’s going to get a citation or a warning and sent on his way versus ending up at the magistrate’s office and ending up in the local jail.”
Previously, Page said, officers would be required to take a person into custody if he or she were breaking the law and had no identification.
“This will save both the DACA immigrants and law enforcement officers time and money,” he said.
The licenses will also apply to legal non-U.S. citizens, such as those living here with a work visa or green card.
“It’s a little confusing right now,” said Cara Read, a High Point University student.
Read has lived in America since she was six, has a green card and is currently working to become a U.S. citizen.
While the DACA licenses will read “No Lawful Status,” it’s still unclear exactly what a legal non-citizen’s license will look like.
“I think anything that mentions me not being a citizen on my driver’s license might be discriminatory and is a label I don’t think I should have on my license,” Cara told Fox8.
Read said revealing her status as an immigrant, even as a legal one, makes her uneasy. “There’s such a negative conversation around immigration in general. I’m afraid this will confuse employers or anyone looking at my license. It could make them question if I’m here legally, which I am.”
“It’s kind of like a scarlet letter,” she continued. “To put that label on your license and people seeing it? That would make me really uncomfortable.”
Local immigration attorney Jeremy McKinney told FOX8 it’s unclear how this measure will combat voter ID fraud, since North Carolina laws don’t require voters to show a driver’s license.
Sheriff Page said the new licenses are a “first step” to immigration reform in the state.
The DACA licenses will be available starting March 25th.