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Latino Daily News

Monday August 1, 2011

MALDEF Secures Court Victory: Texas Can’t Deny Drivers Licenses to Legally Working Immigrants

MALDEF Secures Court Victory: Texas Can’t Deny Drivers Licenses to Legally Working Immigrants

Photo: Texas Drivers licenses for legally working immigrants

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This week, the 345th District Court in Travis County granted a declaratory judgment and enjoined the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) from enforcing rules it created that deny driver’s licenses to immigrants living and working in Texas with authorization from the federal government. The court granted the relief in a suit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) together with co-counsel Graves, Doughtery, Hearon & Moody (“Graves Dougherty”) in Austin, Texas, on behalf of six individuals who hold visas authorizing them to reside and work in the United States, as well as a landscaping business that employs foreign workers under the federal H-2B program. MALDEF’s case challenged recently-adopted rules and policies of DPS that prevented thousands of persons across Texas from receiving standard-issued licenses even though they possessed valid immigration documents issued by the federal government.

Judge Orlinda L. Naranjo held that DPS acted outside the scope of its legislative authority when it adopted the new rules, and that DPS does not have the authority to deny legal immigrants Texas licenses, to require them to present proof of their lawful presence, or to issue them non-standard licenses in a vertical format that identify them as “TEMPORARY VISITORS” and include their “status date.”

The court entered the judgment following a hearing yesterday on a motion for judgment. A one-day trial was held in Austin on May 10, 2011 in which the plaintiffs challenged the rules adopted by the Public Safety Commission in 2008 that effectively allowed DPS to exclude otherwise qualified persons from receiving driver’s licenses solely on the basis that they held less than one-year visas or had less than six-months remaining of permission on their visas.

DPS also changed the appearance of driver’s licenses for persons with legal permission to reside in the U.S., but who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and shortened the expiration term of licenses for such persons-all without the Texas Legislature ever passing a law authorizing DPS to do such.