Hernandez v. Heineman

January 24, 2014

This is a lawsuit challenging a decision by Nebraska Governor David Heineman to deny access to driver's licenses to young people who have been authorized to remain lawfully in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The suit is brought on behalf of four named plaintiffs, all young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and are DACA recipients. Circumventing the state's law for promulgating regulations, Governor Heineman announced in a press release last year that DACA recipients were ineligible for driver's licenses in Nebraska. The lawsuit alleges that in making this decision Governor Heineman violated the Nebraska Constitution and its laws.


In June of 2012, President Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would no longer pursue the deportation of immigrants between the ages of 16-31 who met certain qualifications under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program. Since then, nearly 300,000 young immigrants have been authorized to remain in the U.S. lawfully for a renewable, two-year period and are eligible for work permits.

In most states, the implementation of DACA has allowed these young people to live their lives out of the shadows and with the kind of support and freedom that other young people enjoy who are entering adulthood and building their lives and futures. They are able to work, attend school and participate actively in their communities. In a majority of states, DACA recipients are able to obtain driver's licenses since, as was confirmed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in January 2013, they are considered lawfully present in the country. Nebraska is only one of two states (the other being Arizona) that deny these young immigrants access to driver's licenses, thereby imposing enormous burdens on their educational and employment opportunities and their ability to assist their families.

The lawsuit challenging Nebraska's denial of driver's licenses to DACA recipients has been filed on behalf of four young immigrants by the ACLU of Nebraska and the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. It is part of a broad effort by civil rights organizations, immigrants' rights advocates, community organizations and others in Nebraska to overturn this harmful policy.

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