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Student and Youth Rights

The ACLU works to ensure that constitutional protections are extended to young people and students. 

ASHEBORO – Tonight, the Randolph County Board of Education voted 6-1 to reverse an earlier vote banning Ralph Ellison’s literary classic, “Invisible Man,” from Randolph County schools.

In response, Chris Brook, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) released the following statement:

“Tonight, the Randolph County Board of Education righted a wrong. The freedom to read is just as essential to a healthy democracy as the freedom of speech and all other rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. This episode should serve as a valuable reminder to students, teachers, parents, and school officials across the state of our ongoing duty to promote academic freedom, ensure the free exchange of ideas and information, and reject the always looming threat that censorship and suppression, for any reason, pose to a free society.” 

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) today applauded a decision by state Transportation Secretary Anthony Tata to allow the state Division of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to young immigrants receiving work permits through a federal program.

“We are extremely pleased that officials did the right thing and will give young immigrants throughout North Carolina an opportunity to drive safely and legally,” said Raul Pinto, ACLU-NCLF staff attorney. “This decision makes it easier for thousands of young people with work permits to drive to work, attend school, take care of their families, and contribute to communities across our state.”

Tata’s decision comes two days after Diana Gonzalez, a 17-year-old high school senior from Burlington, North Carolina, who was born in Mexico and brought to the United States when she was 2 years old, delivered a petition with signatures from more than 23,500 ACLU supporters to the office of Gov. Pat McCrory that urged him to grant licenses to thousands of young people like her.

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RALEIGH –A young immigrant who meets all requirements for a North Carolina driver’s license but has been denied a learner’s permit while officials reconsider the state’s policy will deliver a petition with more than 22,000 signatures to the office of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory today that urges the governor to support issuing licenses to qualified immigrants who want to drive safely and legally in the state.

More than three weeks after the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office said that young immigrants who qualify under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are “lawfully present” and should be granted driver’s licenses, North Carolina officials have still not announced a decision about the state’s policy.

  • WHAT: A young immigrant denied a learner’s permit for a North Carolina driver’s license will deliver a petition with more than 22,000 signatures to Gov. Pat McCrory, urging him to reinstate licenses for qualified young immigrants receiving work permits under federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Press availability to follow.
  • WHO: Diana Gonzalez, a 17-year-old high school senior from Burlington, North Carolina, who was born in Mexico and brought to the United States when she was 2 years old. Earlier this year, Gonzalez was denied a learner’s permit for a North Carolina driver’s license even though she meets all stated qualifications.
  • WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at 4:15 p.m.
  • WHERE: 116 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC, 27603

On Jan. 17, the North Carolina Attorney General issued a legal opinion stating that young immigrants who are “lawfully present” in the United States and have been granted work permits under DACA meet all requirements for North Carolina driver’s licenses and should therefore be issued licenses by the state DMV. The federal Department of Homeland Security has also clarified that DACA recipients are legally present in the United States. North Carolina suspended issuing driver’s licenses to DACA recipients in early January while awaiting an opinion from Attorney General Roy Cooper.

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RALEIGH – Two of North Carolina’s leading civil rights organizations are asking North Carolina Transportation Secretary Anthony Tata to reinstate a Department of Motor Vehicles policy that allowed young immigrants authorized to live and work in the United States to be issued driver’s licenses. That policy had been suspended pending guidance from the state attorney general, whose office issued a legal opinion on Jan. 17 explaining that young immigrants granted deferred action under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are “legally present” and meet all qualifications for licenses.

In a Jan. 18 letter, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) and the North Carolina Justice Center pointed to that opinion and guidance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as reasons why the North Carolina DMV should reinstate licenses for the young immigrants in question. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also clarified on Jan. 18 that DACA recipients are “legally present.” Secretary Tata had previously told the Raleigh News & Observer, “We’ll do whatever the law tells us to do.”

“Both the Attorney General’s Office and DHS have now clarified that DACA recipients are ‘legally present’,” reads the letter from the ACLU-NCLF and Justice Center. “As such, DACA recipients meet the qualifications for [a] North Carolina driver’s license, and there is no legal reason to deny DACA recipients licenses another day. Accordingly, we ask that the DMV take immediate steps to implement the opinion of the Attorney General and continue to issue licenses to DACA recipients. Additionally, any licenses cancelled as a result of the erroneous policy change should be reinstated.”

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RALEIGH – The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office informed the state Department of Motor Vehicles today that young immigrants who are “lawfully present” in the United States and have been granted work permits under a federal program meet all requirements for North Carolina driver’s licenses and should therefore be issued licenses by the DMV.

“[I]ndividuals who have been granted deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy directive are lawfully present in the United States during a period of deferment,” wrote Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson G. Kelley in a Jan. 17 letter to DMV officials. Kelley said a general statute concerning state DMV license requirements “requires that such licenses be issued” to the immigrants in questions.

“In light of this clear opinion, the DMV should do the right thing and reinstate its policy of granting licenses to all qualified drivers who have received deferred action,” said Raul Pinto, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “There is no reason – legal or otherwise – why the DMV should prevent immigrants authorized to live and work in the United States from driving and further contributing to our state and society.”

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