The recent decision by Judge Orlinda L. Naranjo to keep the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) from enforcing rules it created that deny driver’s licenses to immigrants living and working in Texas is welcomed by Human Rights Initiative.
What did the judge determine? Judge Naranjo held that DPS acted outside the scope of its statutory authority when it adopted the new rules in question. She ruled that the DPS does not have the authority to deny legal immigrants Texas licenses, nor can it:
- Require them to present proof of their lawful presence, including the presentation of certain documents that U.S. authorities do not require. This includes denying applicants based on the length of time the applicant was originally lawfully admitted by federal authorities or the time remaining on that admission (the rules had stated that applicants’ documents must be valid for at least a year and have at least 6 months validity remaining by the date of application).
- Issue immigrant applicants with non-standard licenses oriented in a vertical format instead of a horizontal one that identifies them as “TEMPORARY VISITORS” and includes their “status date.”
- Limit the validity period of a driver’s license or identification card to one year for such applicants.
This decision is applauded by HRI as the former DPS rules prevented many HRI clients from obtaining Texas driver’s licenses or ID cards, and forced DPS officials to make complicated immigration decisions based on documents presented. Not being able to drive or not having a valid ID often hindered our clients from getting jobs or being able to live their lives. We hope that the grant of this relief by Judge Naranjo will help ease the process of applying for driver’s licenses and ID cards for our clients.
The DPS has already stated they plan on appealing the judge’s decision, so we will continue to monitor the case and post any updates as we get them. For more detailed information on the case or to read a copy of the actual ruling, please see this news release by MALDEF.