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Michigan DREAMers Sue to Stop State from Denying Driver's Licenses

Photo courtesy of Antonio Villaraigosa

Young aspiring citizens—with support from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Immigration Law Center—sued Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R) to stop her from blocking driver's licenses for those who have "deferred action" status from President Obama's DREAM initiative. Meanwhile, many of the young people—called DREAMers—are being prevented from working, attending school or driving because of Johnson's actions.

Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as many as 1.76 million Michigan residents who are undocumented immigrants are eligible to stay in the country legally for two years. In most states, this makes them eligible for driver's licenses, but Michigan joined Arizona and Nebraska in refusing to comply with such requests—a policy that the ACLU alleges is illegal.

"They're really unable to work and to use benefits of that status because they can't drive," said Karen Tumlin, an attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. "Michigan winter is not exactly where you'd want to walk to work."

A spokesperson for Johnson argued that state law prevents the licenses from being granted because a "legal presence" in the state is required. The ACLU and National Immigration Law Center counter that the Deferred Action program grants that legality and that the secretary of state is misinterpreting the law.

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