The North Carolina Department of Transportation announced last week that it would be issuing driver's licenses and identification cards to young illegal immigrants who are granted deferred action status by the Obama administration. But local immigration activists are not happy with how the licenses look.
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.
After going back and forth on the matter, North Carolina came up with a compromise of sorts. The state would issue these young immigrants driver's licenses. But you would never confuse them with a regular driver's license.
First of all, instead of being horizontal, they're vertical. And instead of being blue at the top, they're pink (Fuchsia). In capital letters on the front and back, it will say, "NO LAWFUL STATUS." But at the same time, it also says "legal presence" on the back of the card. The license expires when the person's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, or DACA status, expires.
Greer Beaty with the North Carolina Department of Transportation says it's a balancing act.
"The driver's license is designed the way it is so that it allows young people who have DACA status to obtain a NC driver's license but it does have a look have some different language and look different so that it can protect the rights that are afforded to citizens, such as the right to vote," Beaty says.
Ramon Garibaldo, a student at Johnson C. Smith University and member of United 4 The Dream, says there are already regulations preventing voter fraud and this may lead to unwanted harassment.
"Let's say somebody's driving, they get pulled over," Garibaldo says. "The fact that law enforcement sees 'No Lawful Status' right there, will already give that officer almost a reason to harass the person."
The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing the licenses to qualified applicants starting March 25.