Musings on Immigration

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Allowed to Work in the United States, but Not Allowed to be Physically Present in the United States - What?

by Rebecca Rojas, Associate Attorney

Today, the Detroit News reported that Michigan has joined the two states — Nebraska and Arizona — that have banned the issuance of driver's licenses to undocumented young people who qualify for Obama’s deferred action program (also known as the DACA program).  By way of background, the DACA program gives immigrant youth who were brought here as children and who have grown up in the United States, a two-year employment authorization card.  This card permits the holder to work anywhere in the United States.

The apparent rational behind Michigan’s decision to deny driver’s license to these young people is that they are “unlawfully present” in the United States.  The article notes Michigan’s Secretary of State “apparently reached this decision, notwithstanding federal authority stating that although a DACA designation may not confer legal status on that individual, the person is nonetheless, 'legally present’ within the United States.”

In fact, the issue of whether someone could be permitted to work in the United States, but yet not be entitled to be in the United States was reviewed by a federal court in 2008. This court found that the argument that someone be permitted to be employed in the United States, yet not be allowed to be physically present in the United States was “untenable” and “bewildering.”

It is difficult to see how Michigan’s position could be anything but untenable and bewildering.  

First, these young people have federally issued work cards for employment in the United States.  

Second, granting them licenses would allow Michigan to regulate them and to ensure that they have the appropriate insurance and registration.  

Third, it would allow Michigan to collect additional driver’s license fees and taxes.  

Fourth, granting license would enhance Michigan’s knowledge about who is living and working in its community, which would increase security.

In short, it appears that the decision to deny license to these young people is nothing more than a mean-spirited attempt to discriminate against them.  Like most discrimination, it has no rational basis.

You can read the entire Detroit News article HERE.

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