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LINCOLN, Ne. – A Nebraska District Court Judge has ruled that a lawsuit by DREAMers against Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will be allowed to move forward. The court denied a legal challenge by the government, noting that the denial of drivers’ licenses to grantees of the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA is a federal program that offers "deferred action" – a temporary protection from deportation to immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Nebraska on behalf of four young immigrants following a press release issued in August of 2012 by the Governor declaring that DACA recipients would be denied state drivers’ licenses. The plaintiffs are all DACA grantees and have permits to work and reside in the United States lawfully.
Judge Jeffre Cheuvront rejected the government’s motion to dismiss and let the lawsuit proceed, stating that "a license cannot be denied based on an unlawful classification." Under its current policy, the DMV has deemed DACA recipients as categorically ineligible for a Nebraska driver’s license. "We are confident that the court will conclude that the government’s classification is unlawful as this case proceeds," said Christine Sun, regional staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.
The court also suggested that the plaintiffs in this case should appeal the denial of licenses with the state DMV. "Some of our clients already went to the Nebraska DMV to obtain driver’s licenses and were turned away," said Amy Miller, Legal Director of the ACLU of Nebraska."If they file an appeal, it could take months to resolve. Meanwhile, these qualified young people would continue to be denied the driver’s licenses that they need to go about their daily lives. It’s senseless to withhold from them the means to advance in school, earn a living and contribute to our communities."
Nebraska remains the only state in the country that has adopted the REAL ID Act that is denying licenses to DACA recipients. Congress expressly stated that people with deferred action—such as DACA grantees—are eligible for driver’s licenses under REAL ID.
The ACLU and ACLU of Nebraska will proceed with the lawsuit, and continue pursuing any other potential avenues for blocking the unlawful policy.