- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit over Nebraska’s denial of driver’s licenses to immigrants who came into the country illegally as children with their families.

District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront on Wednesday rejected the state’s request, the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/M33rnn ) reported.

In August 2012, Republican Gov. Dave Heineman declared that Nebraska would deny driver’s licenses to the immigrants who became eligible to avoid deportation and work in the U.S. as a result of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Several months later he said Nebraska would vigorously defend its policy, even if the state were sued.

The American Civil Liberties Union had filed the lawsuit in June on behalf of four Omaha residents. The lawsuit says Nebraska officials violated state law that requires state agencies to go through a public hearing and comment period before making significant changes to state rules and regulations. The lawsuit says the policy also violates the state constitution’s right to due process.

Cheuvront said in Wednesday’s ruling that “while it is true that there is no constitutional right to a driver’s license, it is equally true that such a license cannot be denied based on an unlawful classification.”

In reaction to the ruling, ACLU attorney Christine Sun said the organization is “confident that the court will conclude that the government’s classification is unlawful as this case proceeds.”

A spokeswoman for the Nebraska attorney general’s office didn’t immediately return messages Friday from The Associated Press. The office is representing the state in the driver’s license matter.

The ACLU lawsuit, filed in Lancaster County District Court, was the second one prompted by the state’s refusal to issue the licenses. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sued the state in federal court on behalf of a Nebraska City woman, saying Nebraska’s policy violates her constitutional right to equal protection and is unconstitutional because it’s trumped by federal law.

Applicants for the deferment program must have come to the U.S. before they turned 16, be younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, be in school or have graduated from high school or GED program or have served in the military. They also were allowed to apply for a two-year renewable work permit.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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