DETROIT (AP) — A high school homecoming king and two other people who illegally entered the U.S. as children sued the Michigan secretary of state Wednesday over her refusal to grant driver’s licenses to immigrants allowed to stay under a federal policy that suspends deportation.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the immigrants, who illegally entered the country as children with older relatives, should be able to drive if they’re allowed to stay in the United States.
Michigan “should let them drive so we don’t drive them away” to other states, attorney Miriam Aukerman said.
President Barack Obama last summer said immigrants up to age 31 who entered as children wouldn’t face deportation under certain conditions and can work and go to school. But Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is refusing to grant driver’s licenses, saying the policy doesn’t mean an immigrant is here legally.
“It’s simple,” Aukerman said. “If you’re authorized to work here, you’re authorized to be here.”
The lawsuit seeks an injunction from U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan to stop Michigan’s practice. Johnson’s office said she’s simply following state law on who qualifies for a license.
“Secretary Johnson is the daughter of an immigrant and a supporter of both a diverse community and one that welcomes legal immigrants who want to make Michigan their home,” spokeswoman Gisgie Gendreau said.
The lawsuit was filed by behalf of Leen Nour El-Zayat, 20, a Wayne State University student born in Lebanon; Resilda Karafili, 21, a University of Michigan student born in Albania; and Mexican native Javier Contreras, 17, a senior at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor who was homecoming king last fall. All three have been granted deferred status under the Obama administration’s immigration policy.
They said they can’t get good jobs without being able to drive. Aukerman said Michigan, Arizona and Nebraska are the only states not giving driver’s licenses.