NC JUSTICE NEWS: Driver's Licenses for Young Immigrants + New Virtual Charter Schools Policy + HKonJ

January 15, 2013

LICENSES FOR YOUNG IMMIGRANTS: Officials must reinstate policy

The federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as created last year, blocks deportation for young immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16, are not older than 31, have graduated high school or attended college, or served in the military. The program authorizes young immigrants to remain legally in the United States, and should allow them to apply for a North Carolina driver’s license. However, the state DMV now says it will stop issuing licenses to DACA recipients until it receives a legal opinion from the state attorney general.

The American Civil Liberties of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) and North Carolina Justice Center are asking North Carolina officials to reinstate driver's licenses for young immigrants who were granted two-year work permits under the federal DACA program. In a Jan. 11 letter, the ACLU-NCLF and N.C. Justice Center urged the North Carolina Attorney General’s office to advise the DMV to continue to issue driver’s licenses to deferred action recipients.

The letter points out that DACA recipients are “legally present” in the U.S. and are eligible to obtain all DMV-required documentation, including Social Security numbers and employment authorization. Many states, including North Carolina, allow immigrants with work permits to obtain licenses. Last week, Illinois lawmakers passed a law that would allow all undocumented immigrants to receive temporary licenses. The ACLU and other groups filed litigation in Michigan and Arizona after officials denied licenses to DACA recipients there.

These young immigrants live and work legally in the U.S. There is simply no justification to deny them licenses. Here's hoping North Carolina doesn't go the way of Arizona. Read the letter here.

VIRTUAL CHARTER SCHOOLS: New policy a step in the right direction

Charter schools have been part of the policy discussion for years in North Carolina. But last week, the North Carolina State Board of Education set a new precedent by passing the first policy focused solely on regulating virtual charter schools.

The new policy provides some much-needed guidance on establishing virtual charter schools in North Carolina. The policy includes the following guidelines:

  • Schools may only educate students in grades 6 through 12
  • The student-to-teacher ratio cannot exceed 50 to 1 per class
  • The graduation rate for these schools must be no less than 10 percent below the overall state average (currently at 80 percent) for any two out of three consecutive years
  • The student withdrawal rate must not be higher than 15 percent for any two out of three consecutive years

Virtual charter school applicants must also provide a detailed explanation about how the proposed virtual school will assist at-risk students who are not succeeding academically, and how the school will meet the academic needs of English Language Learner students and students with disabilities.

Advocates still take issue with the ability of these schools to provide students from all walks of life with a sound basic education. The biggest concern for education advocates is depleted funds for public schools — and those much-needed public dollars being directed to virtual charter schools instead. As of yet, it hasn't been proved that full-time virtual schools are an adequate replacement for traditional in-person teaching and learning. But barring a total ban on virtual schools, it's crucial that there be increased accountability and oversight. The new policy is a step in the right direction.

INEQUALITY FOR WORKING FAMILIES: Report shows growing econ. gap

The U.S. economy is slowly recovering but the economic outlook for many working families is bleak, according to a new report from the Working Poor Families Project.

The number of low-income working families in the U.S. increased to 10.4 million in 2011, the report said, up from 10.2 million in 2010. Overall, the total number of people in working low-income families now stands at 47.5 million, and could reach 50 million in the next several years. "That’s roughly equivalent to the total number of people living in California, Oregon, and Washington combined," the report said. In 2011, there were 23.5 million children in low-income working families, and 59 percent of low-income working families had one or more minority parent, revealing harsh racial and ethnic divides as well.

The numbers in North Carolina aren't encouraging either. 36 percent of working families in the state are low-income, ranking North Carolina 36th in the U.S. In comparison, New Hampshire has the lowest percentage in the country, with 18 percent.

Throughout all of this, inequality among working families is growing, while higher-income families receive a larger share of income relative to those at the bottom of the income distribution. The richest 20 percent of working families took nearly half of all income, while those in the bottom 20 percent received less than 5 percent.

SAVE THE DATE: HKonJ, Feb. 9, 2013

Six years ago, the North Carolina NAACP began building a multi-racial, multi-issue alliance of progressive organizations in North Carolina to form the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly Coalition (HKonJ-PAC). The movement — made up of over 125 member organizations — will continue its anti-racist, anti-poverty and anti-war agenda with its annual march on February 9.

The 7th Annual HKonJ march will take place on Saturday, February 9, 2013. Armed with the historic shout “We the People Shall Not Be Moved: Forward Together Not One Step Back!”, HKonJ aims to unite individuals from all walks of life. Citizens will march in support of voting rights, equitable education, collective bargaining, affordable housing, health care, environmental justice, and the protection of the rights of immigrants.

Assembling will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at Shaw University on South Street in Raleigh. The march to the General Assembly will begin at 10:30. Visit the HKonJ website for more information and details on the HKonJ 14-point agenda.

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE AWARDS: Make your nomination today

The Defenders of Justice (DOJ) Awards are given by the Justice Center to honor individuals or organizations that are making significant contributions in the following areas: Litigation; Research and Policy Development; Public Policy Advocacy and Grassroots Empowerment. Recipients will be honored at our annual event this spring, either in late April or early May.

Eligible nominees must be based in North Carolina. If you would like to nominate an individual or organization in one of the following categories, please complete this nomination form and return to Melissa Wiggins at no later than January 13, 2013:

  • Litigation – Representing clients in high-impact cases that protect and expand the rights of low-income groups and individuals.
  • Policy Research and Advocacy - Conducting and disseminating research and development alternatives to existing policy.
  • Legislative Advocacy – Working with traditionally underrepresented populations to define and shape public policies.
  • Grassroots Empowerment - Developing programs designed to help community based organizations or individuals be leaders within their own communities. These organizations or individuals will have examples of programs that have been successful.

Stay tuned for more details on the Defenders of Justice Awards over the next few months.


Research & Publications: