Legal Victory in Arizona: State Must Accept Proof of Work Authorization as Sufficient Documentation from Immigrants Seeking Driver’s Licenses

June 22, 2018

Hayley Burgess, [email protected]
Tony Marcano, [email protected], 213-629-2512 x128

Legal Victory in Arizona: State Must Accept Proof of Work Authorization as Sufficient Documentation from Immigrants Seeking Driver’s Licenses

LOS ANGELES — Arizona must accept proof of work authorization as sufficient documentation from immigrants seeking to obtain driver’s licenses, a federal court ruled this week.

The decision in Valenzuela v. Ducey, a lawsuit filed by the National Immigration Law Center, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), and the Ortega Law Firm P.C. blocks Arizona’s Department of Transportation from denying licenses to immigrants with deferred action.

“A driver’s license is about more than a piece of paper,” said Nicholas Espíritu, staff attorney at NILC, who argued the motion for summary judgement. “Our plaintiffs should be treated just like anyone else and have the freedom to live their lives fully in their communities. This order allows them to have the license they need to drive to work and support their families, and it prevents Arizona from engaging in a discriminatory practice.”

NILC and MALDEF sued Arizona on behalf of several deferred action holders who, despite having received work authorization from the federal government, were denied the opportunity to apply for a driver’s license. Deferred action recipients include survivors of domestic violence and other serious crimes.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell said that the state cannot create a policy that grants driver’s licenses to some deferred action recipients, while denying them to others.

“This decision is a great victory for the courageous individuals who brought this lawsuit to challenge Arizona’s harsh and unnecessary driver’s license policy, and for hundreds of individuals across the state affected by this policy,” said Julia Gomez, staff attorney at MALDEF, who argued a companion motion in the case. “The court’s order ensures that deferred action recipients can finally get on with their lives, and helps remove the hurdles that come from not being able to drive.”

Arizona’s discriminatory policy followed an initial attempt to deny licenses to all those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. NILC, MALDEF, and others successfully challenged that discriminatory policy in 2012.


Founded in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center envisions a society in which all people — regardless of race, gender, income level, or immigration status — have the opportunity to live freely, work safely, and thrive in society. For more information, visit and follow on Twitter @NILC_org.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit