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    ACLU sues over Michigan driver's license policy for undocumented immigrants

    11:00 AM, December 19, 2012
    By Niraj Warikoo
    Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

    Javier Contreras, 17, is a plaintiff in a lawsuit over Michigan's driver's license policy for undocumented immigrants. Miriam Aukerman, left, is with the ACLU and Leen Nour El-Zayat, right, is another plaintiff in the suit. / ROMAIN BLANQUART/ Detroit Free Press

    The ACLU of Michigan said it's suing Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson over her decision to deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants who are able to live and work legally in the U.S. under a new program with the Department of Homeland Security.

    The lawsuit was filed today in U.S. District Court in Detroit by ACLU attorneys on behalf of four undocumented immigrants in Michigan and One Michigan, an immigrant rights group based in Detroit. The suit alleges the state is violating the constitutional rights of the immigrants and should be deferring to federal laws on immigration issues.

    In October, Johnson ordered all offices to deny driver's licenses to immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program the Obama administration created this summer. The program allows undocumented immigrants who are younger than 30 and arrived in the U.S. because of their parents to avoid deportation for two years.

    The order made Michigan one of only three states in the country -- Nebraska and Arizona are the other two -- to deny licenses to DACA immigrants. Civil rights and immigrant advocates said the move was unconstitutional, and also unwise given that Michigan was the only state in the U.S. to have lost population over the past decade and so needs to attract more people.

    A spokesperson for Johnson, Gisgie Gendreau said today their office hasn't been served yet with the lawsuit. She added that her office has met the ACLU in recent weeks to discuss Johnson's position, which she said is in line with the law.

    "In our conversations with the ACLU, we shared with them that Michigan state law requires that a customer be here legally before we can issue a driver's license," Gendreau told the Free Press. "The federal government has made it clear that the deferred action for childhood arrivals, DACA, have not been given legal status, so we can't issue driver's licenses. If they believe the DACA program has any shortcomings, they should address those issues with the federal government. They're the ones who determine whether one is here legally."

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    ACLU sues over Michigan driver's license policy for undocumented immigrants | Michigan news | Detroit Free Press |
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