Make your home page

ACLU files lawsuit on behalf of Haitian nationals denied access to IDs, driver’s licenses

Multicultural Spotlight: Lawsuit claims national origin discrimination

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the state on behalf of five Haitian nationals who say they were denied access to driver’s licenses or identification cards.

The lawsuit claims new legislation allows others to benefit under the humanitarian parole status.

Many new Haitian immigrants are now in Indiana as humanitarian parolees, the same status offered to many Ukrainians who are here now after Russia’s invasion. The ACLU is challenging HEA 1050, saying the legislation clashes with federal law because it discriminates against immigrants of color.

When Leonce Jean-Baptiste moved to Indiana in the early 90s, he could roughly count the Haitian population on two hands. Today, that number sits around 30-40,000.

“You could feel like a fish out of water because the things you’re familiar with are no longer accessible,” he said.

He and Moise Duge work with the nonprofit Haitian Association of Indiana, helping new immigrants find their way in Indiana. They see firsthand the difficulties of adapting to a new life.

“People just caught wind of what’s going on in the Midwest, primarily in the state of Indiana, through the opportunities the state offers,” said Duge.

The ACLU, in partnership with the National Immigration Law Center, filed a lawsuit on behalf of five Haitian immigrants who tried to get an Indiana driver’s license or ID card. The five immigrants are here with the legal ability to work and live in the state.

“The state of Indiana, despite the fact that these people have the same federal status, decided it’s willing to offer driver’s licenses to persons from Ukraine, but not from other countries,” said Gavin Rose, senior staff attorney for the ACLU.

He says HEA 1050 is a pathway for humanitarian parolees to get licenses, but claims that it’s only for those from Ukraine.

“So, the state of Indiana is willing to offer the same benefit to Ukrainian nationals, but not willing to offer it to Haitians or Cubans or Nicaraguans or Venezuelans. We think it is discrimination on the basis of national origin,” Rose said.

Neither Jean-Baptiste nor Duge are affiliated with the ACLUs’s lawsuit, but as a nonprofit that works so closely with the Haitian population, they’ll be following it to the end.

“They’re relying on transportation from others, and people to get to work to be able to go to different places,” said Duge.

“What we’re hoping is that the outcome will be in our favor,” said Jean-Baptiste.

News 8 reached out to the BMV, as well as several act sponsors, for comment.

The state has 30 days to respond to the ACLU’s request for preliminary injunction.