License decision is self-defeating

Illegal immigrants with deferred deportation rights should be OK to drive.

January 11, 2013 

It is not just mean-spirited and shortsighted, this decision by the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles to deny driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants who have been granted two-year deferrals from the risk of deportation. It’s downright foolish because it could well hurt many small businesses that rely on these people to work and expect them to be able to drive.

Unfair is another word that comes to mind. The Obama administration, facing the reality of the failure of Congress to address the big-picture issue of illegal immigration, announced in June that it would act to prevent the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to this country as children. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program blocks deportation and grants a two-year work permit to these undocumented young people. To qualify, the immigrants must have come to the U.S. before they were 16, be 30 or under, be high school graduates, be attending college or be veterans of the military.

Remember, these are people who entered the country illegally but had no say in the matter. Why do they deserve to be treated as if they had sneaked beyond the borders on their own in the dead of night?

And many are now educated, have worked for a while and are trying to better their lives.

Yet North Carolina, in denying them driver’s licenses, is making life all the tougher for people who have in most cases overcome disadvantages to keep going and help themselves and their families.

Has anyone in the state government bureaucracy considered that this also will make it more difficult for businesses, particularly small businesses, to get their work done? The great conundrum in immigration reform, which Congress has ducked repeatedly, is that some Americans want all illegal immigrants deported while some businesses secretly want to maintain a cheap, hard-working labor force that exists in the shadows.

But let’s talk about those Americans for a second. Exit polling on Nov. 6, Election Day, revealed that two-thirds of voters thought undocumented immigrants working in the U.S. should be allowed a chance to obtain some sort of legal status. The general public, in other words, doesn’t appear to be nearly as knee-jerk on the immigration issue as some politicians are.

That likely reflects a sort of evolution in the minds of many citizens who, while they may not like the fact that so many people (figures vary, but 11 million is a conservative estimate) are in the country illegally, recognize that it’s preposterous to suggest that all of them should be deported.

That’s certainly true of those who had no say in the decision to come to the United States.

The list of what it takes to qualify for two years of protection against deportation and a work permit is solid. North Carolina’s DMV should recognize the practical and humane reasons for helping people who have met the federal standard to work in this country while they can. And a driver’s license is an important part of that help.

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