Federal Appeals Court Rules Arizona Must End Ban On Drivers’ Licenses For DREAMers
PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was wrong to bar some young immigrants from receiving driver’s licenses, a panel of federal judges ruled today. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division to end its policy of denying licenses to young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. This group of young people—who have permission from the federal government to live and work in the U.S.—are seriously harmed by their inability to get drivers’ licenses, the court said.
The court ruled that Arizona’s license denial policy is likely to be held unconstitutional because it improperly discriminates against some young immigrants. This is the latest legal step in a civil rights coalition’s lawsuit against the discriminatory policy, which prevented Arizona youth granted work authorization through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from applying for state-issued identification.
The news was welcomed by plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including Carla Chavarria, a member of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, who said, “Today’s decision will remove a tremendous burden that I—along with thousands of other Arizonans—face on a daily basis. By allowing us to apply for the licenses we need to drive to school and work, we’ll finally be able to contribute more fully to the communities we love.”
“The court’s ruling confirms that Arizona’s discrimination against these young immigrants violates our Constitution,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Governor Brewer just got a wake-up call: it’s time for Arizona to stop standing in the way of these hardworking young adults, who are just trying to achieve the American dream.”
Karen Tumlin, managing attorney of the National Immigration Law Center, said, “Today’s decision finally recognizes that Arizona’s immigrant youth are no different from anyone else authorized to live and work in the country, and to treat them differently is simply wrong.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, the Mexican American Legal and Educational Fund and the ACLU of Arizona challenged Gov. Brewer’s executive order and related policies in court, alleging the ban violates DREAMers’ constitutional right to equal protection of the laws.
Today, in granting a preliminary injunction, the Ninth Circuit agreed that DREAMers suffered “irreparable harm” because of Gov. Brewer’s policy, particularly because the denial of a driver’s license limits employment opportunities. The court also found that plaintiffs may be successful in establishing that Gov. Brewer’s arbitrary ban improperly infringes on the federal government’s exclusive immigration authority by inhibiting plaintiffs’ ability to work as authorized.
“Today, the federal courts had to step in to prevent Arizona from discriminating against the DACA recipients that it should be embracing,” said Victor Viramontes, MALDEF National Senior Counsel, who argued the case in the Ninth Circuit. “After yet another loss in court, Arizona should stop its senseless battle against immigrants.”
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