The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Wednesday demanding the state of Michigan grant access to driver’s licenses for young undocumented immigrants enrolled in the new federal deferred-deportation program.
The suit names three student immigrants, as well as a local immigration advocacy group, One Michigan, as plaintiffs. One of the students, Resilda Karafili, told The Raw Story getting a license will be critical for her as she seeks a job upon finishing her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan.
“It’s not reasonable to think that people can get a job without being able to drive,” said Karafili, who emigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was 10 years old. “It looks unprofessional from the start. Employers don’t want to hire people who don’t have reliable transportation, and it makes it nearly impossible to get a job.”
Karafili was accepted into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program enacted by President Barack Obama on June 15.
The program allows for participants to receive work permits, which are required by Michigan law for obtaining a driver’s license. But, as The Detroit News reported earlier this month, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson ruled participation does not confer “legal presence” in the country.
“We rely on the federal government to tell us who is here legally; we don’t determine that,” said her spokesperson, Gisgie Gendreau. “So far, the federal government has not provided information to the states indicating that DACA grants that legal status.”
The ACLU said she is one of about 15,000 immigrants affected by the state’s decision.
According to attorney Michael Tan, who is working on the lawsuit as part of the organization’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, the state’s stance violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
“Michigan is sort of discriminating or targeting people on DACA,” Tan said. “They’re denying them driver’s licenses even though they’re giving everyone else on deferred action driver’s licenses.”
The ACLU was part of a similar lawsuit filed last month against the state of Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed an executive order specifically barring DACA immigrants from getting licenses. Arizona and Michigan, along with Nebraska, are the only three states challenging participants’ right to drive.
[“Pen Glasses and Drivers License Application” by Mert Toker on Shutterstock]