692 N.W.2d 812 (Iowa 2005), 04-0176, Sanchez v. State

Docket Nº:04-0176.
Citation:692 N.W.2d 812
Party Name:Juan and Maria SANCHEZ, for Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, and John and Jane Doe, For Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Appellants, v. STATE of Iowa, Tom Miller, Attorney General, State of Iowa, Kevin W. Techau, Commissioner, Iowa Department of Public Safety and Mark Wandro, Director, Department of Transportation, Appelle
Case Date:February 18, 2005
Court:Supreme Court of Iowa

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692 N.W.2d 812 (Iowa 2005)

Juan and Maria SANCHEZ, for Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, and John and Jane Doe, For Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Appellants,


STATE of Iowa, Tom Miller, Attorney General, State of Iowa, Kevin W. Techau, Commissioner, Iowa Department of Public Safety and Mark Wandro, Director, Department of Transportation, Appellees.

No. 04-0176.

Supreme Court of Iowa

February 18, 2005

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Curt N. Daniels, Chariton, for appellants.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mark Hunacek, Assistant Attorney General, for appellees.

CADY, Justice.

Immigrant access to driver's licenses has surfaced as a controversial issue in Iowa and throughout the United States, and it frames the issue presented in this

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appeal. 1 Yet, this case does not require us to pass upon the merits of the competing policy arguments surrounding this issue--that is the role of the legislature. Rather, our task is to determine the legality and constitutionality of the practice in Iowa of denying driver's licenses to illegal aliens residing in this state. For the reasons that follow, we conclude the practice is both legal and constitutional. We affirm the decision of the district court.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

There are thousands of illegal aliens residing in Iowa. 2 Although they have entered the United States without complying with federal law, they live and work in Iowa and have become integrated into many Iowa communities. Like others in Iowa, they engage in myriad family and community activities that give rise to transportation needs. However, they are unable to obtain driver's licenses from the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) because they do not have social security numbers or other documents required by the state to obtain a driver's license. 3 Their unauthorized presence in the United States precludes them from qualifying for a social security number or from obtaining proper immigration documents.

Juan and Maria Sanchez represent a class of illegal, undocumented aliens present in the state who want to obtain driver's licenses. 4 John and Jane Doe represent a class of licensed drivers in the state who want the DOT to license the Sanchez class to make it safer for members of the Doe class to drive on the state's roads. On November 13, 2003, the Doe and Sanchez classes sued the State and various state officials, claiming that the denial of driver's licenses to the members of the Sanchez class violates the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, article I, sections 6 and 22 of the Iowa Constitution, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, and 18 U.S.C. § 242. The State moved to dismiss, contending that illegal aliens have no right to receive driver's

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licenses in the State of Iowa and that the Doe class lacked standing.

The district court granted the State's motion to dismiss. This appeal followed. We address each claim raised by the classes in the following separate divisions of this opinion.

II. Standards of Review

Questions of statutory interpretation are reviewed for correction of errors at law. State v. Stratmeier, 672 N.W.2d 817, 820 (Iowa 2003) (citing State v. Hornik, 672 N.W.2d 836, 838 (Iowa 2003); State v. Stoneking, 379 N.W.2d 352, 353-54 (Iowa 1985)). We review constitutional questions de novo. State v. Buenaventura, 660 N.W.2d 38, 44 (Iowa 2003) (citing State v. Naujoks, 637 N.W.2d 101, 106 (Iowa 2001)). A motion to dismiss should only be granted if the allegations in the petition, taken as true, could not entitle the plaintiff to any relief. Mlynarik v. Bergantzel, 675 N.W.2d 584, 586 (Iowa 2004) (citations omitted).

III. State Statutory Claim

Iowa Code section 321.182(1)(a) allows the DOT to waive the social security number requirement for foreign nationals "[p]ursuant to procedures established by the department." The two classes claim that the social security requirement should be waived for illegal aliens because section 321.196(1) "command[s] the Department of Transportation to issue drivers licenses to undocumented aliens." We think the classes take this provision out of context.

Section 321.196 is the provision governing renewal of existing licenses. It presupposes that a licensee seeking renewal of a license previously qualified for and obtained a license. The statute does not allow, let alone "command," the DOT to issue licenses to anyone who does not meet the requirements of section 321.182.

Moreover, the Sanchez class has not followed the procedures established by the DOT to obtain a waiver of the social security number requirement. The DOT has adopted the following procedure for waiver:

If you are a temporary foreign national who is not authorized for employment, the DOT may waive the Social Security Number requirement for a non-commercial driver's license or identification card. However, you must present your immigration documents so that the DOT can record the BCIS (INS) number in lieu of the Social Security Number.

Iowa Dep't of Transp., Verification of Social Security Number for an Iowa Driver's License or ID Card, at http://www.iamvd.com/ods/ssn.htm (last updated Feb. 25, 2004) (emphasis added). Under the DOT's procedure, only foreign nationals who are authorized by the INS (now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Bureau of the Department of Homeland Security) to be in the country are entitled to have the social security requirement waived. See id.; see also Iowa Dep't of Transp., Foreign National Iowa Driver's Licenses & IDs, at http://www.iamvd.com/ods/foreign.htm (last updated Feb. 25, 2004) ("Licenses and Non-Driver Identification Cards issued to temporary foreign nationals will be limited to the period of time the foreign national is authorized to be in the United States, not to exceed two years. The examiner or county treasurer will determine the term by reviewing Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) documents. Temporary Foreign nationals should be prepared to show their INS documentation."). The district court correctly determined that the Sanchez class did not qualify for licenses under the state statutory scheme. We

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thus turn to consider whether this statutory scheme is constitutional.

IV. Constitutional Claims

A. Equal Protection

The classes challenge the DOT's refusal to provide licenses to illegal aliens under the federal and state Equal Protection Clauses. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits states from "deny[ing] to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. amend XIV, § 1. Article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution provides: "All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all...

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