ACLU Questions AG's Support for DMV's Decision to Refuse Federal Document as Proof of Legal Presence

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
November 15, 2010 12:00 am

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ACLU is conducting its own research to determine constitutionality of policy


Richmond, VA – In the wake of a legal opinion from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli supporting a DMV decision not to allow the use of a federal work permit as proof of legal presence for a driver’s license, the ACLU has vowed to renew its efforts to have the policy reversed and is conducting its own legal research.

“We know from our interviews that this policy is devastating for many legally present immigrants who can’t find work because they can’t obtain a driver’s license,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. We are urging everyone – including immigrants, their neighbors and their employers — to contact their elected officials and let them know about the devastating effects of this unfair policy.”

“At the same time,” added Willis, “we are in contact with legal experts across the country to determine the constitutionality of the policy.”

“The policy was hastily adopted in the wake of a tragic accident,” said Willis, “but there is simply no connection between the work permit and the accident. We can only conclude that the state was looking for a scapegoat to explain how it allowed someone who caused such an accident to drive illegally, and it chose to do so by taking away one of the most important uses of one of the most important official government documents issued to many immigrants.”

The Employment Authorization Document–called an I-766 EAD–is essentially a work permit issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to foreign nationals. For many individuals, it is their most important document and it serves a multitude of functions.

The state’s decision not to allow the I-766 EAD to be used for DMV purposes was made without study or a public hearing, and seems to be based on both strong anti-Latino sentiments and a single tragic automobile accident involving a Bolivian-born driver. The driver, who was facing deportation when he apparently killed a nun and two others while driving intoxicated, used his I-766 EAD to obtain an ID, but did not have a driver’s license.

Virginia’s recent history of over-reacting to its growing Latino population has been well documented. In 2008, Virginia’s legislators introduced more than 100 bills that the ACLU and other rights groups determined were spurred by anti-immigrant bias. None of the bills were based on studies showing they were needed to address problems legislators associated with undocumented persons living in Virginia. Yet each of the bills would have discriminated against Virginia’s entire immigrant population in some way.

The ACLU and other organizations sent a letter to DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb in September after the new policy was adopted. It is available at

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