The Sad Story of Juana Venada

Texas Civil Rights Projects filed suit against the state’s Department of Public Safety over restrictive requirements to obtain valid driver’s licenses. Among the plaintiffs in the case was Juana Venada, a Mexican national and single mother of three children, who was victimized under punitive Texan rules when she attempted to obtain a driver’s license.

Juana Venada is a Mexican national residing legally in the United States with her three children, the eldest aged ten. The sole caretaker of her children, she lives in Austin, Texas.

In April and May 2009, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) twice refused Ms. Venada’s application for a driver’s license. DPS first denied her application on the basis that her USCIS Employment Authorization Document and social security number were insufficient to establish her legal presence in the United States, and then denied her on the basis that her documents may have been falsified. Without a valid driver’s license, she has been forced to drive illegally to maintain employment and support her family.

She had been married to a U.S. citizen who subjected her to years of physical and emotional abuse. In February 2009, she filed for U.S. immigrant benefits herself, under the federal Violence Against Women Act, which was approved; thus, granting her legal status in the United States while she awaits the opportunity to become a legal permanent resident.

As the spouse of an American citizen, Ms. Venada was eligible to become a legal permanent resident. But her vindictive spouse used his legal status as a domination tool; having the sole power to submit a petition for her, he refused. He further threatened to have Ms. Venada deported and separated from her children, and in September 2006, he followed through on that threat, leading to Ms. Venada’s arrest, incarceration, and near-deportation.

Following two additional years of emotional turmoil and difficulties engendered by her abuser’s actions, she followed the advice of her attorney, and applied for a valid Texas driver’s license – only to be denied due to restrictive rules established by the Department of Public Safety.

The rules involved for granting licenses to foreign nationals who are in Texas on a temporary, legal basis are stamped on a special vertical small document and assigned a “temporary visitor” classification that appear to be discriminatory without bolstering the document’s validity or protecting against fraud – ostensibly the reasons for the special treatment being meted out.

Ms. Venada, both in the United States legally and authorized to work by USCIS, now faces a new challenge to continue to support her family: getting a state-issued driver’s license. The pending litigation against the Texas Department of Public Safety will one day provide Ms. Venada her day in court, and it is hoped, relief from the state’s restrictive driver’s license rules.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit Rabinowitzrabinowitz.com