Maria Marquez Hernandez, who was brought to the U.S. by her parents and raised here as an undocumented child, was an honors student and doing well in college. When Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was introduced in 2012, Maria applied for it and received a Social Security number and a work authorization card. Even with this documentation, Maria was not allowed to receive a driver’s license because of a block put on DACA recipients by Governor Heineman. That’s when Hernandez decided to stand up and speak out. 

In 2013, the lawsuit, Hernandez v. Heineman, was filed and challenged the decision to deny driver’s licenses to young people who were authorized to remain lawfully in the country. 

On January 23rd, 2014, a judge ruled that the lawsuit would move forward after rejecting the government’s motion to dismiss it. At that time, Nebraska was the only state in the country that had opted to deny driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. 

Finally, in May of 2015, the legislature passed a new law that ensured DREAMers with DACA were eligible for driver’s licenses. The vote had triumphantly concluded a three-year battle to support DREAMer’s fight for driver’s licenses. This was a huge win for Maria, who along with other DREAMers fought for their right to drive. By the end of the fight, Maria had graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a degree in psychology, and all of her hard work had paid off because she and other undocumented youth could finally obtain driver’s licenses. 

2016 is the 50th anniversary of the ACLU of Nebraska. We will feature several memories from our five decades of defending freedom in the Cornhusker state here. Do you have a favorite memory? Share it with us!