Immigrants argue in lawsuit trial that Nebraska wrongly denies them driver's licenses


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LINCOLN, Nebraska — A judge has heard arguments in a lawsuit that three young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children have filed against the state of Nebraska, which refuses to issue them driver's licenses.

Araceli Martinez-Olguin, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing the plaintiffs, said Wednesday that the Department of Motor Vehicles has been unlawfully denying licenses to so-called Dreamers — young people spared from deportation and authorized to live and work in the U.S. under a federal program.

She said the denials are based on a 2012 news release issued by then-Gov. Dave Heineman two days after President Barack Obama announced implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Lincoln Journal Star reported ( ).

Nebraska is the only state in the nation that denies licenses to youths who qualify for the deferred-action policy.

Nebraska is singling out program recipients with its policy, Martinez-Olguin argued before a Lancaster County District judge Wednesday, because it denies driver's licenses only to those immigrants categorized as Dreamers on federal employment authorization documents. All other immigrants with those documents are issued licenses, she said.

But Nebraska Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post defended the practice, saying that while those young immigrants might have a lawful presence, it's the state's stance that "they lack lawful status." Post said the plaintiffs should be taking issue with the federal deferred-action policy, not Nebraska.

Both sides rested Wednesday and agreed to submit closing arguments in writing in two weeks, as well as responses to each side's argument two weeks after that.

The legal question could be moot by then should a bill in the Nebraska Legislature that would establish a state law allowing licenses for the immigrants be enacted. The measure has advanced to the full Legislature for debate, but Gov. Pete Ricketts has said he opposes it.

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,

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