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Bishop Burbidge Voices Concern on Proposed License Bill

02/22/13

The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge has expressed deep disappointment with a proposed bill that would place a moratorium on the decision by the North Carolina Transportation Department to issue drivers licenses to individuals who have been granted deferred action status by the United States government.

The bill, HB 141, was filed by Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, and three fellow Republicans on February 21, 2013. It would put on hold until June 15, 2013, the issuance of drivers’ licenses “of any kind to an applicant whose lawful presence was derived through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative announced by the United States Secretary of Homeland Security on June 15, 2012.”

The DACA program allows approximately 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children before their sixteenth birthday to apply for a limited period of protected legal status. To qualify for the two-year work permit, the individual must be no older than 30, be a high school graduate, attending college or have served in the military.

In September 2012, the former Director of the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requested a ruling by the North Carolina Attorney General’s office as to the proper documents needed to obtain a North Carolina driver’s license.  In his letter, former Director Mike Robertson indicated the DMV wanted to be clear that granting licenses to those who have received deferrals would not be in violation of existing state law.

On January 17, 2013, Attorney General Roy Cooper replied by noting if the federal government has issued deferred status to an individual by providing a “legal residence” permit, there is no reason to deprive the deferred recipient from obtaining a driver’s license should the person present valid documentation on deferred status and meet all other statutory requirements.

On February 14, 2013, North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said, given the decision by the Attorney General, the DMV would provide driver’s licenses to the approximately 18,000 young undocumented citizens in the state who have been granted deferred action status by the federal government effective March 15, 2013.

HB 141 takes issue with the opinion issued by the Attorney General claiming it “complicates the application of the law in this State.” It also claims the DACA initiative “compounds the confusion in federal immigration law rather than diminishes it.”

In noting his disappointment with the filing of HB 141, Bishop Burbidge said, “Given the failure by the federal government to enact a fair and just comprehensive immigration reform policy in our country that would address the plight of young people who were brought to the United States at an early age, DACA works to address the hardship placed upon them. House Bill 141 is aimed at derailing an important benefit of this federal directive, namely the issuance of a driver’s license. Without being allowed to obtain a license,” Bishop Burbidge said, “many will not be able to get jobs and some may decide to drive illegally. The issuance of a valid driver’s license is important to all because it ensures the driver has been tested.”

Bishop Burbidge concluded, “I respectfully request members of the North Carolina House to allow the Attorney General’s opinion and the decision by the DMV to stand, which will allow the State to begin issuing permits to those granted deferred status on March 15.”