LINCOLN — A Nebraska City woman is asking a judge to halt immediately the state's policy of denying driver's licenses to people brought into the country illegally as children but allowed to stay under a new federal program.
Mayra Saldana, who has lived in the United States since age 2 and is a Peru State College student, is seeking a preliminary injunction against the state policy.
Saldana, 24, filed a federal lawsuit against the state in June, but now wants a judge to halt the state policy while the lawsuit is decided.
Her lawyers, in court filings Wednesday, said the state's policy is likely to be overturned. They also argued that the harm in denying Saldana's ability to hold a job and handle family responsibilities outweighs the harm in forcing the state to grant licenses to her and other immigrants granted temporary work authorizations under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“Driving is a necessity of modern life and is essential to the ability to work, particularly in Nebraska,” argued lawyers with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
President Barack Obama last year launched the deferred action program, which allows people brought into the country illegally as children to obtain two-year renewable work authorizations to remain in the country, if they meet certain criteria.
But Gov. Dave Heineman, citing a state law that denies public benefits to illegal immigrants, directed the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles to refuse driver's license applications to deferred action participants.
The governor has said the federal program “does not make them legal citizens. ”
In a letter to Saldana — who has been denied a driver's license three times — Heineman wrote: “I support legal immigration as opposed to policies that reward illegal behavior.”
Saldana's attorneys argue that Nebraska's policies are barred by federal law and discriminate against one class of immigrants legally allowed to stay in the United States.
A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, which is representing the state, declined to comment Thursday.
Besides Saldana's lawsuit in U.S. District Court, the ACLU of Nebraska has filed a court challenge of the state's policy in Lancaster County District Court.