INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — One year after passing a law that allows Ukrainian immigrants on humanitarian parole to receive driver’s licenses, Indiana lawmakers are trying to repeal it after a federal judge recently ruled that the law must extend to all parolees.
The bill that passed the House on Monday with bipartisan support would eliminate a statute that allowed people legally in the U.S. on a narrow parole definition to receive a driver’s license, but only if they are from Ukraine. A group of Haitian immigrants living in Indiana under the same federal designation sued the state over the law, saying it was discriminatory and unconstitutional.
In mid-January, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction striking the Ukrainian provision of the law, allowing all immigrants on humanitarian parole to receive temporary licenses in the state.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the National Immigration Law Center are representing the Haitian immigrants in the ongoing lawsuit, which seeks to permanently undo the Ukrainian stipulation.
Gavin Rose, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Indiana, told The Associated Press it's not clear how the suit would be affected if the bill, House Bill 1162, becomes law.
“It would obviously be extremely concerning if the legislature removed the ability of Ukrainians to obtain credentials simply because Indiana has been required to also extend these credentials to persons from countries such as Haiti, who, like Ukrainians, have been allowed to enter and work in the United States because of dire humanitarian crises in their own countries,” Rose said in an email.
Republicans have said extending the privilege to all people on parole makes the state vulnerable to federal immigration classifications out of their control.
Rep. Jim Pressel, Republican author of the bill, told lawmakers Thursday that the lawsuit has made the situation a “mess” and took issue with the federal definition of parole that includes people from several countries. He said he wants a conversation in the Senate about how to secure the intent of last year’s law.
Rep. Matt Lehman, Republican floor leader in the House, said allowing all people on parole to get a license opens the door to the “coveted status” to “dishonest” people.
“I just don’t have faith in our immigration policy on a national level that that status is coveted,” he told lawmakers Thursday. “I think that status is being granted to people that we would have problems with.”
The bill passed 89-8 in the Republican-controlled state House without debate and now advances to the state Senate.