September 23, 2010

ACLU says state's decision to refuse to recognize government-issued work permit rooted in anti-Latino bias.

Richmond, VA--The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and other advocates for protecting the constitutional rights of immigrants are urging the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to reverse a hastily-made decision to disallow the use of a federal work permit as proof of residency to obtain a driver's license or official ID.
The Employment Authorization Document--called an I-766 EAD--is essentially a work permit issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to foreign nationals.  For many individuals, it is their most important document and it serves a multitude of functions.
The state's decision not to allow the I-766 EAD to be used for DMV purposes was made without study or a public hearing, and seems to be based on both strong anti-Latino sentiments and a single tragic automobile accident involving a Bolivian-born driver.  The driver, who was facing deportation when he apparently killed a nun and two others while driving intoxicated, used his I-766 EAD to obtain an ID, but did not have a driver's license.
"The car crash was a terrible tragedy and no one is denying that," said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, "but there is no connection between the I-766 card and the accident.  We can only conclude that the state was looking for a scapegoat to explain how it allowed someone who caused such an accident to drive illegally, and it chose to do so by taking away one of the most important uses of one of the most important official government documents issued to many immigrants."
Virginia's recent history of over-reacting to its growing Latino population has been well documented.  In 2008, Virginia's legislators introduced more than 100 bills that the ACLU and other rights groups determined were spurred by anti-immigrant bias.  None of the bills were based on studies showing they were needed to address problems legislators associated with undocumented persons living in Virginia.  Yet each of the bills would have discriminated against Virginia's entire immigrant population in some way.
In 2007, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors brought national attention to its ill-advised efforts to root out undocumented immigrants by punishing all immigrants living in the county.  Their original proposal included policies that would have encouraged police profiling based on nationality and would have required library and park patrons to show birth certificates or passports before use of the facilities would be allowed.
A copy of the letter sent to DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb is available at


Kent Willis, Executive Director 804-644-8022

Jorge Figueredo, Director of Racial Justice and Immigrants' Rights 703-268-8479