The NC Attorney General's office has issued an opinion that the Division of Motor Vehicles is required to issue driver's licenses to undocumented young people who have been granted deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established by President Obama through executive order last summer.
The opinion came in the form of a letter today from Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson G. Kelley to J. Eric Boyette, acting commissioner of the Division of Motor Vehicles.
Kelley wrote that deferred status "is a grant of permission to remain in the country for a specified period of time without receiving formal immigration status. The grant of deferred status therefore establishes lawful presence for the period of deferment.
"It is therefore our opinion that individuals who have been granted deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy directive are lawfully present in the United States for the period of deferment," Kelley concluded. "As such, NC Gen. Stat. §20-7(s), which states that DMV shall issue a drivers license of limited duration to persons who present valid documentation demonstrating deferment and meet all statutory requirements, requires that such licenses be issued."
The Latin American Coalition, based in Charlotte, applauded the decision.
"We are very happy that the North Carolina Attorney General's office has decided on a common-sense solution for our state," Executive Director Jess George said in a prepared statement. "This decision continues to move North Carolina in a positive direction and provides a shining example of how access and opportunity benefits all of our communities and the state as a whole."
Kelley's opinion aligns with the federal government's stance on the issue.
"The relief an individual receives through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process is the same for immigration purposes as that obtained by any other person who receives deferred action," Chris Bentley, press secretary for US Citizenship and Immigration Services, told NPR yesterday.
At least one state interprets the executive order differently.
"It wasn't approved through Congress," Matthew Benson, spokesman for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, told NPR.
"It's represented nowhere in the law," he added. "And for that reason we believe that these individuals don't qualify for a driver's license in the state of Arizona."