By Joshua Ballard, Staff Writer
Some call it a contemporary yellow badge; others view it as a modern-day scarlet letter. Newly elected North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, however, views the move as “a pragmatic compromise.”
North Carolina is in the process of implementing a system of identifying non-citizens through their driver’s licenses. The new licenses will have a pink strip at the top and the phrase “NO LAWFUL STATUS” in red at the bottom.
The “need” for change is due to Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This act allows non-citizens who came to the country as children to register for a deferral from deportation for two years. The non-citizens who are accepted into the program are not considered undocumented citizens for this two-year period; however, they are not considered truly citizens either.
Once the program went into effect, the governing body of the DACA determined that participants would also be able to qualify for driver’s licenses. This created a legal quandary for a number of states, with some states — like Arizona, who has a long history of controversial immigration policy — still refusing to make licenses available.
That’s where McCrory’s “pragmatic compromise” comes in. This pink strip is meant to allow DACA participants the right to drive and work in the U.S., but still differentiates them from “true” citizens.
I call it shenanigans.
What does it matter if the person driving the car in front of me is part of the DACA program? This new plan comes dangerously close to outright government-sponsored discrimination, and it is a gross invasion of privacy.
“I am undocumented and unashamed, but I say that on my terms,” said immigrant activist Moises Serrano in an interview with the Winston-Salem Journal.
What business is it of the theater owner to know someone’s citizenship status if all they want to do is see an R-rated movie? The person, not the government, should determine whether that personal information is publicly available.
“A lot of us are just scared,” said Cinthia Marroquin to the Associated Press. “We just want to be able to get a job and drive to work. Having that license is just going to show everybody you’re here illegally, just buying a beer or writing a check. You don’t know how people might react.”
Marroquin came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 15 by her family’s choice.
Hester Prynne, in the novel “The Scarlet Letter,” is forced by the laws of her town to wear a scarlet letter “A” to identify that she is an adulterer. While the Scarlet Letter was written in 1850, the parallels between Hester’s “A” and the pink strips are undeniable. These new rules will not only affix a pink strip to the holder’s license but also a stigma.
With this pink strip it is simple for the same theater owner to assume that the cardholder is an “illegal immigrant” because the card, in bright red capital letters underneath a bright pink header mind you, states “NO LEGAL STATUS.” As such, it will be easy for those who have access to this information to discriminate on the basis of citizenship.
I understand that supporters of the strip want to safeguard against voter fraud and other issues in relation to the law, but participants in the DACA program receive thorough background checks. These program participants aren’t malicious ne’er-do-wells looking to exploit our state; they’re using a legitimate government program to better their lives without the fear of expulsion.
The U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clearly disallows discrimination by “national or social origin” among other aspects. However, the U.S. hasn’t ratified the Covenant — we’ve only signed it, so I suppose we have the right to go back on our word when it suits us.
“Those people don’t think it (the license) ought to have any identification regarding legal status versus legal presence,” said McCrory according to WUNC. “There is a legal distinction between legal status and legal presence.”
I’m sorry, but 15,000 of “those people” have already applied to the DACA program in North Carolina alone. That means there are 15,000 of “those people” who aren’t skirting around state law in a malicious attempt to outwit or swindle the government, as some North Carolinians believe they intend to do. Instead, they are going through the proper and legal channels.
I think Jose Rico, a 23-year-old Raleigh resident, who has already been accepted into the DACA program, put it best to the Associated Press.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with people, why they’re so afraid of people like me,” said Rico. “It’s so frustrating. I passed a federal background check, done everything right by the book. I’m paying taxes. I mean, we’re just kids trying to go to school.”
Editor’s update: The NC Department of Transportation announced on March 24th that the licenses of undocumented individuals will not have pink strips. However, the phrase “NO LAWFUL STATUS” will still be printed on them.