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NCDOT Does A U-Turn, No 'Pink' Licenses

New DACA driver's license

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has made an about face and is abandoning its controversial decision to add a bold pink stripe across the top of new driver licenses for young immigrants.  A news release issued Thursday afternoon by the state DOT confirms that the Division of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing driver licenses on Monday, March 25, 2013 for immigrants qualifying under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  But the attached ‘final’ image of the driver license no longer has the pink stripe or the words ‘No Lawful Status’ printed in large type.

Instead, the licenses will have a blue banner, just like the state’s other driver's licenses.  And under the words ‘DRIVER LICENSE’ will be the words in smaller type reading ‘Legal Presence No Lawful Status.’  The DOT does not cite the uproar over its decision as the reason for abandoning the pink stripe.  The Associated Press quotes DOT spokesman Mike Charbonneau as saying, “the state opted against the pink licenses because the computer and printing coding is easier if the licenses are the same as those for other drivers.”

Raul Pinto is a staff attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina.  The ACLU has been an outspoken opponent of the ‘pink’ licenses.  In a written statement, Pinto says the recent change by the state DOT is a move in the right direction.

“By eliminating the bright pink stripe and adding the words ‘legal presence,’ this new design should help reduce the chances that young immigrants receiving deferred action will face discrimination or harassment when they show their driver’s license,” says Pinto.  

But the state ACLU still questions the need to include the words ‘No Lawful Status’ at all and will monitor how changes are implemented.

Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said in a new release Thursday, “This program is about accountability and safety, making our roads safer for all North Carolinians.”  Tata says, “Those approved through the DACA process will take driver exams and road tests, as well as provide proof of auto insurance prior to receiving a license.”

The controversy surrounding the so-called ‘pink’ licenses made national news.  Some called the ‘pink’ stripe nothing more than a modern-day scarlet letter, stigmatizing immigrants.

Young immigrants who are awarded licenses will receive a temporary driving certificate, with card licenses arriving by mail 10-to-20 days later.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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