MALDEF Wins Temporary Injunction Halting DPS Denial of Driver's Licenses to Legal Immigrants

AUSTIN, TX – Today, the 419th District Court in Travis County issued a temporary injunction blocking the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) from enforcing rules that deny driver’s licenses to legal immigrants living and working in Texas. The lawsuit was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) on behalf of five individuals who are authorized to reside and work in the United States and a landscaping business that legally employs foreign workers under the federal H-2B program. The case challenges the recently-adopted illegal and overreaching rules and policies of the Texas DPS that prevent thousands of persons across Texas from receiving standard-issued licenses even though they possess valid immigration documents issued by the federal government.

In her opinion initially sustaining MALDEF’s challenge, Judge Orlinda L. Naranjo ruled that DPS acted outside the scope of its authority when it adopted the new rules and that the Plaintiffs have demonstrated a probable right to ultimate relief or success in their case.

“The Texas Department of Public Safety in an overreaching action exceeded its authority by systematically denying full licenses to people who reside legally here in Texas,” said MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel Nina Perales. “We are pleased that the Court has concluded that the plaintiffs are entitled to an injunction pending a full trial,” continued Perales.

The court’s order follows a two-day temporary injunction hearing held in Austin on March 25 and 26, 2009 in which MALDEF challenged certain 2008 rules adopted by the Public Safety Commission that effectively allowed DPS to exclude otherwise qualified persons from receiving driver’s licenses solely on the basis that they held less than one-year visas or had less than six-months remaining of permission on their visas. DPS also changed the appearance of driver’s licenses for persons with legal permission to reside in the U.S., but who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and limited the expiration term of licenses for such persons.

“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. “The court's injunction puts a temporary stop to that agenda and we look forward to a permanent injunction after trial,” continued Hinojosa.

A copy of the decision may be found here.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund