Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Judge blocks new rules for licenses, IDs in Texas
April 9, 2009, 7:53PM
AUSTIN — A state judge agreed Thursday to suspend new Department of Public Safety driver license rules touted as a crackdown on unauthorized immigrants.
The rules prevent thousands from getting standard-issue licenses even though they’re legally in the country, said the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is suing over the policy.
District Judge Orlinda L. Naranjo said the rules — which specify that people who aren’t U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents must prove they’re legally here before getting a license — go beyond DPS authority.
“This case is not about illegal immigrants obtaining driver licenses, it is about legal residents who have been denied or have been threatened a denial of a driver license,” Naranjo wrote to lawyers, saying she was granting a temporary injunction. After a formal order, such an injunction would block the rules pending a trial.
When DPS adopted the policy last year, GOP Gov. Rick Perry applauded it as strengthening security, saying, “Texas is a great place to live and work, and while we welcome legally documented individuals to the Lone Star State, we must ensure that this privilege is not abused by those seeking to enter our country illegally.”
Thursday, Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said, “The governor continues to believe that the recent rule changes by DPS are important to ensuring public safety and national security and he is confident the vast majority of Texans feel the same way.”
DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said by e-mail, “We have received the court’s letter and are reviewing it with the Attorney General’s Office to determine the next step.”
When the policy change was announced, Public Safety Commission Chairman Allan Polunsky of San Antonio said he had instigated it because of a taxi driver in Dallas who had brought in undocumented workers from other states to get Texas driver licenses.
Visa acceptance at issue
Some lawmakers have joined civil rights advocates in saying DPS overreached.
“DPS has created havoc by attempting to inject its political agenda into the lawmaking process and improperly giving second-class status to individuals who in every way have complied with the laws of the land regarding their presence in the United States and Texas,” said David Hinojosa, MALDEF lead attorney in the case. (Same MALDEF lawyer involved in the ECISD 30-year lawsuit.)(1), (2), (3), (4)
Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, said the rule changes “had no legislative backing. State agencies do not have the power to pass rules that contradict or fail to comply with state laws.”
Before the rules were changed, an unexpired visa was accepted as proof of identify for someone seeking a driver’s license, Naranjo noted. The change required the visa to have been issued for at least a year and have at least six months remaining on it when presented to DPS.
The new rules also provide for noncitizens’ licenses to differ in appearance from standard licenses, and to show when a person’s stay in the country expires.
Hinojosa said it “invites racial profiling.” If license-holders’ legal status expires and they don’t present documentation showing their status has changed or their stay has been extended, their licenses are canceled under the rules.
Naranjo wrote: “State agencies possess only those powers granted to them by the Legislature … The Court finds that the Legislature did not give DPS the authority to create a new category of ineligible persons to receive a driver license.”
Chronicle reporter James Pinkerton contributed to this story.
Read more: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6366630.html#ixzz1TytulV00
(1) MALDEF files objections
(2) District: MALDEF too far off subject
(3) MALDEF files objections
(4) MALDEF will object to ECISD's request