One Michigan v. Ruth Johnson

February 1, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s order prohibiting driver’s licenses to young immigrants who qualify for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

dreamers-223x223-v08.jpgLeen Nour El-Zayat

The DACA program allows certain immigrant youth who came here as children – commonly known as DREAMers because of the proposed DREAM Act legislation – to live and work in the United Sates for a renewable period of two years without fear of deportation.

An estimated 1.76 million youth in the United States are eligible for the DACA program, including about 15,000 in Michigan. The ACLU, NILC and other coalition partners already filed a lawsuit over a similar policy in Arizona November 29.

Plaintiff Leen Nour El-Zayat, a third-year pre-medical student at Wayne State University, said she worries about continuing her studies and accepting a job if she can’t drive to school or work.

“I need to be able to drive so I can get a job and attend medical school, which I have wanted to do since I was a little kid,” said El-Zayat, 20, who has lived in the United States since she was eight. “I just want to serve as a role model for my younger siblings and continue contributing to my community.”

Leen came to the United States when she was eight years old. She and her family were living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when war broke out, and came to the United States to escape the violence. Read more about Leen.

Other plaintiffs in the case:

One Michigan is a youth-led immigrant organization whose mission is to provide resources to immigrant communities, particularly undocumented youth, through organizing, education and empowerment. One Michigan focuses its organizing and advocacy efforts on integrating immigrant youth into Michigan's educational system and economy to the fullest extent possible. One Michigan trains immigrant community organizers, educates immigrant youth about their rights, and promotes passage of the DREAM Act at the national level. Since the establishment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, One Michigan has focused on educating immigrant youth about the program.

Javier ContrerasJavier Contreras

Javier Contreras is 17 year-old who came to the United States from Mexico when he was four years old. Javier is a senior and honor roll student at the Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was elected homecoming king this year. Javier plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering or computer science, but his college choices are limited by the fact that he cannot obtain a driver's license and not all colleges have access to public transportation. Javier plans to work his way through college because his family cannot afford tuition.

Resilda KarafiliResilda Karafili

Resilda Karafili is 22 years old and has lived in the United States since she was ten. Resilda was born in Albania but came to live with her aunt and uncle in Michigan. Ms. Karafili is currently a senior at the University of Michigan, studying political science, and would like to go to law school in the near future. Resilda fears that when she graduates in May and looks for a job to support herself and save for law school, she will be unable to accept any offered employment if she cannot obtain the driver’s license she needs to get to work.

The complaint asks for a ruling that DACA recipients are legally authorized to be in the U.S. and therefore eligible for licenses. The complaint further states that Michigan’s policy violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by interfering with federal immigration law, and violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against certain non-citizens. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division.

Statistics image