Politics & Government
4:54 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Michigan Secretary of State sued for denying driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants

The ACLU of Michigan is suing Secretary of State Ruth Johnson over her decision to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants with work permits granted under a new federal-deferred action plan.

The suit was brought on behalf of three young immigrants and One Michigan, a youth-led advocacy group.

There are approximately 15,000 young people in Michigan who are eligible for the federal program.

The Detroit Free Press has more:

In October, Johnson ordered all offices to deny driver's licenses to immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program the Obama administration created this summer. The program allows undocumented immigrants who are younger than 30 and arrived in the U.S. because of their parents to avoid deportation for two years.

The order made Michigan one of only three states in the country—Nebraska and Arizona are the other two—to deny licenses to DACA immigrants. Civil rights and immigrant advocates said the move was unconstitutional, and also unwise given that Michigan was the only state in the U.S. to have lost population over the past decade and so needs to attract more people.

Since DACA recipients are legally authorized to be in the country, they should be eligible for licenses, the lawsuit argues.

The ACLU says Michigan’s policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and it illegally interferes with federal immigration law.

Leen Nour El-Zayat, an undergraduate at Wayne State, is one of the plaintiffs.

“I need to be able to drive so I can get a job and attend medical school, which I have wanted to do since I was a little kid,” she said in a statement from the ACLU.

Now 20, El-Zayat, has lived in the United States since she was eight.

“I just want to serve as a role model for my younger siblings and continue contributing to my community.”

A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State said that it is the federal government’s responsibility “to tell us who is legally here in the United States and who is not,” MLive reports.

She said that it is clear that DACA participants are not.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom