RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) today applauded a decision by state Transportation Secretary Anthony Tata to allow the state Division of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to young immigrants receiving work permits through a federal program.

“We are extremely pleased that officials did the right thing and will give young immigrants throughout North Carolina an opportunity to drive safely and legally,” said Raul Pinto, ACLU-NCLF staff attorney. “This decision makes it easier for thousands of young people with work permits to drive to work, attend school, take care of their families, and contribute to communities across our state.”

Tata’s decision comes two days after Diana Gonzalez, a 17-year-old high school senior from Burlington, North Carolina, who was born in Mexico and brought to the United States when she was 2 years old, delivered a petition with signatures from more than 23,500 ACLU supporters to the office of Gov. Pat McCrory that urged him to grant licenses to thousands of young people like her.

The ACLU-NCLF and North Carolina Justice Center had written several letters to state officials urging them to grant licenses to the immigrants in question.

On Jan. 17, the North Carolina Attorney General issued a legal opinion stating that young immigrants who are “lawfully present” in the United States and have been granted work permits under DACA meet all requirements for North Carolina driver’s licenses and should therefore be issued licenses by the state DMV. The federal Department of Homeland Security has also clarified that DACA recipients are legally present in the United States.

The federal DACA program blocks deportation for young immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16, are not older than 31, have graduated high school or attended college, or served in the military. DACA recipients are “legally present” in the U.S. and are eligible to obtain all DMV-required documentation, including Social Security numbers and employment authorization.

(Pictured: Diana Gonzalez with ACLU-NCLF Staff Attorney Raul Pinto)