LINCOLN, Neb. (CN) - Nebraska unconstitutionally denies driver's licenses to people legally in the United States under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a young woman claims in Federal Court.
Mayra Saldana, 24, has lived in Nebraska since her parents brought her here when she was 2, she says in the complaint. She is a sophomore at Peru State College, studying science, and also works.
She qualifies for relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and "has been granted deferred action pursuant to the DACA program, and has employment authorization and a Social Security Number," according to the complaint.
It continues: "As of March 31st, 2013, USCIS had granted 268,361 youth DACA benefits and 1,405 DACA recipients reside in Nebraska.
"All DACA grantees in Nebraska are being denied the opportunity to obtain a driver's license pursuant to Defendants' unlawful policies and practices.
"On August 17th, 2012 - two days after DHS began accepting DACA applications - Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman issued a press release, which stated: 'President Obama's deferred action program to issue employment authorization documents to illegal immigrants does not make them legal citizens. The State of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver's licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants unless specifically authorized by Nebraska statute.'"
Saldana claims this violates the Supremacy Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"The disagreement with the federal government's decision to enact the DACA program is further illustrated by Governor Heineman's language in a reply letter to plaintiff Mayra Saldana: 'we welcome legal immigration. Policies that reward illegal behavior are not fair to those individuals that do follow the rules. The United States
Constitution squarely places the responsibility for establishing immigration laws on the federal government.'
"The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles ('DMV') has treated Governor Heineman's statements as a directive to deny driver's licenses to DACA recipients," the complaint states.
"Consequently, the DMV enacted an official policy and implemented it on September 6th, 2012, barring the acceptance of the employment authorization documents from DACA recipients as evidence of authorized presence in the United States to establish eligibility for driver's licenses.
"The DMV, however, continues to accept employment authorization documents from all other noncitizens, including noncitizens who are recipients of deferred action other than DACA recipients."
Saldana has a job now but "was previously denied a job opportunity since it required some driving. She was told outright that the reason she was not considered was because she did not have a driver's license," according to the complaint.
She seeks declaratory judgment and an injunction.
She is represented by Aaron Siebert-Llera with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in Chicago.
Named as defendants are the Nebraska DMV and its Director Rhonda Lahm.