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Immigration Reform News 2014: Four DACA Recipients Sue Nebraska Over Driver's License Ban

First Posted: Sep 04, 2014 12:39 PM EDT
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A Nebraska federal judge said earlier this week that she will hear a lawsuit challenging the state over its denial of driver's licenses to immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Last week, the state's attorney general transferred the state lawsuit to federal court. Lawyers for the ACLU see the move to federal court as a way to get the lawsuit dismissed.  

"Removing this case to federal court with trial imminent is nothing but a last-ditch effort to maintain Gov. Heineman and the DMV's awful practice of denying driver's licenses to young immigrants the federal government have authorized to live and work in Nebraska," Amy Miller, legal director for ACLU Nebraska told Omaha.com  

Federal Judge Laurie Smith Camp threw out a similar case earlier this year, arguing the case lacked a genuine issue to be resolved.

Under the Obama Administration's DACA program, immigrant youth can remain in the U.S. for a renewable two-year period and apply for work authorization and be eligible for a social security number.

When the program was implemented in 2012, Nebraska's Governor issued an executive order to the DMV to change its rule and "not issue driver's licenses ... to illegal immigrants unless specially authorized by Nebraska statute."

The lawsuit Hernandez v. Heineman, filed by four young people, ages 17 to 23 -- Maria Marquez Hernandez, Octavio German, Itzel Marquez Hernandez and Adriana Romero -- claims the policy violates the federal mandate and "places an insurmountable burden on the Plaintiffs' ability to obtain employment as well as on their ability to fully contribute to their communities."

The suit argues the policy violates Nebraska Administrative Procedures Act and the state Constitution. The executive order occurred without state legislature or public hearing. 

"I've been given Social Security. I've been given a work permit. I can't get a driver's license.That didn't feel good at all," Maria Marquez Hernandez told NPR. She said she occasionally drives without a valid license, but wished she did not have to break the law.

Nebraska is the only state that denies DACA recipients licenses and makes DACA recipients a special class. A similar restriction was in place in Arizona, but that was overturned in the appeals court this summer.

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