Politics & Government
9:02 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Young immigrants, ACLU sue Michigan Secretary of State over licenses

Two of the plaintiffs: Ann Arbor high school student Javier Contreras, 17, and University of Michigan student Resilda Karafili, 21.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson over her refusal to provide driver’s licenses to some young immigrants.

Last summer, President Obama unveiled the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It gives undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children authorization to live and work here legally for a two-year period. There are an estimated 15,000 DACA-eligible young people in Michigan.

But according to the ACLU complaint in the case, Johnson maintains those in the DACA program aren’t authorized to be “present” in the country--and therefore aren’t eligible to get driver’s licenses or other state-issued ID. Michigan is one of only three states to take this position.

“Secretary Johnson’s argument that someone can be authorized to work, however, somehow not authorized to be present in this country, defies common sense and breaks the law,”  ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman said.

Aukerman says the ACLU met with Johnson about the issue before heading to court.

“She will continue to enforce her policy unless the federal government tells her otherwise,” Aukerman said. “Because she has been unwilling to change her policy, we have no choice but to go to court.”

Resilda Kerifili, a 21-year-old student at the University of Michigan, is one of three individual plaintiffs in the case.

“I believe in standing up for what’s right, and standing up what you believe in. No one is above the law,” Kerifili said.

“You can’t tell someone that they can work, but they’re not allowed to drive. Nobody is going to hire someone who doesn’t have reliable transportation.”