Immigrant youth in Arizona will no longer be denied driver’s licenses, at least for now. A Supreme Court ruling in a lawsuit Wednesday denied Arizona from continuing to ban driver’s licenses for youth who have been granted deferred action by the Obama administration, while the legal battle played out. While the Supreme Court considers Arizona’s appeal in the case, so-called DREAMers who have received deportation relief under the federal program will soon be able to get driver's licenses in Arizona, according to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union, a plaintiff in the case.
“This is a victory for the community. It will change many lives for the better,” Carla Chavarria, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Personally, I will be able to run my business more effectively and no longer have to rely on public transportation. We will be able to contribute to our state without any boundaries.”
Chavarria and other plaintiffs, including Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, have challenged the state policy, which was ordered by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in 2012 after President Barack Obama created a federal immigration program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA permits young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before turning 16 to stay in the country and work. DACA recipients can lawfully obtain driver’s licenses in nearly every state, except Nebraska and Arizona, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
The plaintiffs argue Brewer’s policy is discriminatory and violates constitutional rights by interfering with federal immigration law. Although DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants to remain and work in the United States, the lawsuit states that Brewer’s policy sabotages the federal program by creating a serious hurdle for young immigrants in Arizona who wish to participate and be productive in their community. Brewer has argued that the Obama immigration policy is illegal and that the immigrants do not have legal rights.
Arizona has a large illegal immigrant population and more than 23,000 DREAMers in the state have qualified for temporary work visas under the Obama policy, according to the latest data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Just last month, Obama announced executive actions to expand the deferred action program and create a new one for parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. When the expanded federal immigration program goes into effect next year, the number of deferred action recipients in Arizona is likely to surge.
Arizona, along with 23 other U.S. states, has signed a pending lawsuit against Obama, claiming his executive actions on immigration last month are unconstitutional and exceed his presidential authority.