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ACLU Sues Michigan Over Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

December 19, 2012

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson for refusing to issue drivers’ licenses and identification cards to illegal immigrants covered by President Barack Obama’s “deferred action” directive.

Announced in June, that initiative lets those who came to the U.S. illegally before age 16, have been in the country for at least five years, have no criminal record and are in either school or have completed a high school education, remain and to obtain a work permit.

Johnson’s refusal to issue documents to those qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program violates the federal constitutional principle that the nation’s laws are supreme over those of the states, the ACLU alleged in a complaint filed today at the U.S. court in Detroit.

“Defendant’s position is that although the federal government has authorized DACA recipients to work in the United States, it has not authorized them to be present,” the civil rights group said in its filing. “This position not only violates common sense, it also violates federal law.”

Judge’s Declaration

The ACLU filed its complaint on behalf of the immigrant- rights organization One Michigan and four individuals. They are seeking a federal judge’s declaration that the deferred-action directive allows those covered to be legally present in the U.S. and that Johnson’s position is invalid.

They also seek a court order enjoining Johnson and her staff from denying licenses and IDs to people covered by DACA.

Gisgie Davila Gendreau, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state, said today in a phone interview that Michigan law bars the issuance of a driver’s license to anyone who isn’t legally in the U.S.

The federal government has said deferred action doesn’t make those it covers legal residents, Davila Gendreau said, “so we are not able to issue driver’s licenses to DACA participants under Michigan law.”

About 800,000 undocumented immigrants would be covered by the plan, the president said in June.

The case is One Michigan v. Johnson, 12cv15551, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at

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