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DOT will make drivers licenses for immigrants look second class

DACA drivers' licenses [1]You just knew there had to be a catch when new North Carolina Transportation Secretary Anthony Tata was dragged kicking and screaming to do the right (and undeniably lawful) thing [2] for immigrants granted the right to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last Friday. It would have just been too easy and humane to actually just give folks their licenses and let it go at that. Somehow, something had to be done to appease the anti-immigrant crowd both within and without state government.

So, here’s the stupid and unnecessary idea Tata’s people have cooked up: funny looking licenses. We are not making this up. In a move that would clearly make Arizona’s crazy immigrant-hating Sheriff Joe “pink-underwear-for-inmates” Arpaio smile, DOT will issue issue drivers’ licenses to the immigrants that will look very different from an average adult’s.  The Spanish-language newspaper Que Pasa has more here [3].

Not only will the licenses be vertical rather than horizontal — something ordinarily reserved for beginning drivers — but they will also feature a pink header and include the following words in all caps “NO LAWFUL STATUS.”

Now, of course, none of these changes are necessary. And they have no apparent effect. The licenses will be fully valid. All they will do is send a not-so-subtle message to the immigrants (all of whom have lived in the U.S. for the vast majority of their lives) that they’re not really welcome or equal in the eyes of the state of North Carolina — even for the limited purpose of driving. Oh, and of course, how much do you want to bet that such licenses won’t bring about an extra measure of scrutiny when their holders are pulled over by law enforcement officers in areas like, say,  Alamance County?        

North Carolinians of color are used to the humiliation of “driving while black and brown” treatment. Now, we’ll have a new and absurd status to add: “Driving while pink.”