A 'Modern Day Scarlet Letter': Protesting Pink Licenses

Mar 1, 2013

Dozens of immigrants stood on the corner of Trade and Tryon Street yesterday afternoon in Uptown Charlotte to protest the design of North Carolina's driver's license for young illegal immigrants.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation announced earlier this month that it would be issuing driver's licenses and identification cards to immigrants who are granted deferred action status by the Obama administration.

But they will look different from your standard state license. Instead of being horizontal, they're vertical. And instead of being blue at the top, they're pink. In capital letters on the front and back, it will say, "NO LAWFUL STATUS."

Alfredo Esparza is a 19-year-old deferred action applicant studying computer engineering at Johnson C. Smith University. 

"It's going to create a lot more racial profiling and discrimination," Esparza says. "When you go to a store and you show your license, you don't need them to know your legal status. That's a, I guess you could say, violation of privacy."

Deferred Action allows young people who came to the U.S. before they turned 16 to get work permits. But states have struggled with what that means in terms of granting drivers' licenses.

Protestors held up large poster board mockups of the driver licenses with the picture cut-out so that passersby could take photos with their face in the posters. These photos are being compiled and posted on a Tumblr blog called "Does this drivers license make me look illegal?" Protestors also wore a pink letter "I" for "Immigrant" on their clothing, to protest what they see as a modern-day scarlet letter. 

Greer Beaty with the North Carolina Department of Transportation told The Winston-Salem Journal on Wednesday that other non-citizens (permanent residents and visa-holders) will also receive licenses with a similar design starting in December.  

The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing the licenses to qualified DACA applicants starting March 25.