augusta free press news

Groups call for DMV to accept federal documents as immigrants’ proof of legal presence

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations today released a letter sent to DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb renewing a request that he rescind a recently implemented policy refusing to accept federally-issued work papers as proof of legal presence to obtain either a driver license or ID in Virginia.

The letter was signed by almost 70 organizations including law firms, unions and trade associations, faith-based organizations, a diverse group of immigrant services and advocacy organizations and a wide variety of other not-for-profit human services organizations.

The decision not to allow the I-766 EAD to be used for DMV purposes was made in September without study or a public hearing, and seems to be based on both strong anti-Latino sentiments and a single tragic automobile accident involving a Bolivia-born driver. The driver, who was facing deportation when he apparently killed a nun and two others while driving intoxicated, used his I-766 EAD to obtain an ID, but did not have a driver’s license. Critics of the policy have pointed out that the accident was unrelated to the viability of the federal papers.

“Legal immigrants continue to be burdened by the Commissioner’s decision, including some who have lost wages and jobs because of the difficulty they have experienced in getting their driver’s licenses under this arbitrary, overbroad policy,” said Jorge Figueredo, director of Racial Justice and Immigrant Rights for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, chairman of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, said, “Now that the Attorney General has made clear that the Commissioner has the discretion to decide what documents are accepted for proof of legal presence, we ask him, again, to exercise that discretion thoughtfully and restore the ability of law abiding legal residents of Virginia, who want nothing more than to live their lives, drive to work and worship, and get their children to school and other activities safely, to use the EAD to obtain their driver’s licenses.”

Virginia’s recent history of over-reacting to its growing Latino population has been well documented. In 2008, Virginia’s legislators introduced more than 100 bills that the ACLU and other rights groups determined were spurred by anti-immigrant bias. None of the bills were based on studies showing they were needed to address problems legislators associated with undocumented persons living in Virginia. Yet each of the bills would have discriminated against Virginia’s entire immigrant population in some way. In 2007, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors brought national attention to its ill-advised efforts to root out undocumented immigrants by punishing all immigrants living in the county. Their original proposal included policies that would have encouraged police profiling based on nationality and would have required library and park patrons to show birth certificates or passports before use of the facilities would be allowed.

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at