By Felicia J. Persaud
News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Sept. 7, 2023: Remember Donald Trumpeto’s famous reported comments about wanting immigrants from Norway in the US over those from “s-hole” countries like Africa and Haiti? Well, it seems Indiana has adopted a version of this by allowing Ukrainian immigrants to obtain an Indiana driver’s license or identification card but no other non-citizen immigrants who qualify to be here legally.
H.E.A. 1050, a newly enacted Indiana law from the 2023 legislative session, establishes a path for individuals with humanitarian parole to acquire Indiana driver’s licenses or ID cards. BUT – this opportunity is ONLY extended to those immigrants from Ukraine.
Screw those from Haiti, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua who qualify for “humanitarian parole,” which is granted under US federal law “due to an emergency and urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit” in their country.
Thankfully, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, along with the National Immigration Law Center, (NILC), is not letting this obvious discrimination continue. The ACLU and NILC have initiated legal action on behalf of five Haitian immigrants seeking to obtain an Indiana driver’s license or identification card.
The legal complaint asserts that H.E.A. 1050’s provision of allowing individuals from Ukraine to obtain IDs while denying the same opportunity to Haitian refugees constitutes national-origin discrimination.
The plaintiffs in the case, all authorized to work in the U.S., hold steady employment, and face the challenge of relying on others for transportation to work. The ability to drive is of paramount importance, particularly in areas of Indiana where services are dispersed, and public transportation is not readily accessible.
The lawsuit underscores that individuals from other countries on humanitarian parole would also benefit from being able to drive or secure state-issued identification.
Furthermore, the lawsuit contends that the new law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and is preempted by federal law under the Supremacy Clause and contravenes Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As Gavin M. Rose, senior attorney at the ACLU of Indiana, stated: “Our clients are being denied access to state-issued IDs solely because they are Haitians and not Ukrainians. Non-Ukrainians on humanitarian parole are left struggling to get to work, to keep medical appointments, to take children to school, and more, all because they cannot drive.”
Chiraayu Gosrani, attorney with NILC, added: “The federal government regulates immigration – not the states. The State of Indiana cannot create immigration classifications that conflict with federal law, and here they have done just that in an effort to unconstitutionally discriminate against people with humanitarian protections who are overwhelmingly immigrants of color.
The groups want a federal judge to declare the law illegal and force the BMV to grant licenses and ID cards, plus the ability to register and title vehicles, to humanitarian parolees from other countries.
The irony of this case is that the BMV states publicly on its website: “Any person who believes they have been subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, income, or Limited English Proficiency (LEP) has the right to file a formal complaint.”
This comes after a 2018 lawsuit also from the ACLU that sued the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles for national origin discrimination because it only provides the driver’s manual in English but provides the written exam in 14 languages.
So why would a state make it ok to give European immigrants licenses but not Haitians, Afghans, Venezuelans, Cubas and Nicaraguans, even though they all qualify legally under the parole program?
It’s obvious. Just revisit the Trump logic! White immigrants welcomed; black and brown – stay out!
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.com – The Black Immigrant Daily News.