DMV was 'reviewing,' now 'assessing' AG's opinion supporting licenses for some illegal immigrants

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comJanuary 18, 2013 

— After announcing Thursday that they were “reviewing” a legal opinion issued that day by the state attorney general’s office, state transportation officials said Friday that they were “carefully assessing” it.

That means the state Division of Motor Vehicles has not decided whether it will comply with the attorney general’s recommendation that it should issue driver’s licenses to young illegal immigrants taking part in a federal program that postpones their deportation for two years.

Grayson G. Kelley, chief deputy state attorney general, advised DMV Thursday that it should do so (see 1/18/13 story with reader comments).

Non-citizens who apply for driver’s licenses must provide documents to prove their “legal presence” in North Carolina, under state law. Former DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson asked Attorney General Roy Cooper in September for legal advice on whether participants in the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program meet that requirement.

Yes, Kelley replied Thursday. DACA work permits show that the federal government has certified that their presence here is legal for two years. It does not change their long-term status as illegal immigrants, he wrote.

The deferred-action program affects an estimated 18,000 to 50,000 young men and women in the state who entered the United States illegally as children. State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said Jan. 11 that DMV “will do whatever the law tells us to do” for DACA participants.

J. Eric Boyette, DMV’s acting commissioner, told The News & Observer by email Thursday that DOT officials “were in the process of reviewing” Kelley’s legal advice.

By Friday afternoon, only the verb had changed.

“After four months of review by the Attorney General, the DMV received the opinion yesterday and is carefully assessing it,” DOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty said by email.

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