Driver’s Licenses & DACA in Arizona

May 16, 2013

Adela de la Torre, NILC, 213-400-7822, [email protected]
Isabel Alegria, ACLU National, 415-343-0785 or 646-438-4146, [email protected]
Alessandra Soler, ACLU of Arizona, 602-773-6006 or 602-301-3705, [email protected]
Larry Gonzalez, MALDEF, 202 466-0879, [email protected]

Mixed Federal Court Ruling on DREAMers Shows Why Congress Must Reform Immigration Law

Court Says Arizona Violates Constitution by Discriminatorily Denying Driver’s Licenses to DREAMers, but Fails to Block State Policy

PHOENIX, AZ — A federal district court today stopped short of ordering Arizona to make driver’s licenses available to young immigrants authorized to live and work in the United States under the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, even though it ruled that the state has no rational basis under the law to deny driver’s licenses.

The policy to deny licenses, issued through an executive order by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, was challenged by a coalition of civil rights groups on behalf of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, an immigrant youth–led organization, and five individual immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

“This decision not to block the policy hurts not just Arizona’s DREAMers, but Arizona’s communities and economy as well. We will not give up the fight to stop Arizona’s discriminatory policy against its own youth,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center.

Civil rights groups and Arizona DREAMers are committed to continuing to pursue this case in the courts until this unconstitutional policy is permanently  ended.

“This is an important ruling for Arizona’s DREAMers, and everyone who seeks justice, but we respectfully disagree with the court’s decision not to immediately block this harmful policy. It keeps young immigrants from contributing to their communities, to the state and to the nation,” said Jenny Chang Newell, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

“Every day of our lives, we’re helping our families, the businesses in our communities, and working to take our place as teachers, scientists, and professionals in Arizona,” said Dulce Matuz, director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “To be successful, we need drivers’ licenses. They have become a necessity in life.”

The civil rights coalition argued that Arizona’s driver’s license policy is unconstitutional because it unfairly singles out young immigrants granted deferred action under DACA, when Arizona’s policy allows all other immigrants granted deferred action and a work permit to apply for licenses.

“Although we’re disappointed by the court’s refusal to immediately block this discriminatory order, we will continue to pursue this important fight until all DREAMers are treated with dignity and respect,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “At a time when the majority of Americans support fair and inclusive immigration policies, Arizona continues to stand out as an outlier by treating these young, hard-working immigrants differently because of who they are. We are confident that in the end the courts will side with DREAMers  and uphold equality.”

An estimated 80,000 youth in Arizona, and 1.76 million nationwide, are eligible for the DACA program.

While the DACA program helps provide a lifeline for many immigrant youth who have been living in the United States in fear because of their immigration status, it does not negate the need for Congress to enact federal legislation that provides a roadmap to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people, including young people who came here as children commonly known as Dreamers, who are seeking to integrate fully in to American life.

In addition to NILC, the ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona, and MALDEF, the legal team includes the Phoenix office of Polsinelli Shughart, P.C.

More information about the case, including a copy of the Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (filed Nov. 29, 2012), as well as the court’s order issued today, is available

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