Court: Arizona Gov. Brewer wrong to bar DREAMers from driver's licenses

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. - PHOTO: Courtesy

A federal appeals court panel has said that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was wrong to bar some young immigrants from receiving driver’s licenses.

In its finding, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division to end its policy of denying licenses to DREAMers, young immigrants who came to the United States as children and who have permission from the federal government to live and work here.

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 program from applying for state-issued identification.

Carla Chavarria, a member of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and a plaintiff, said in a news release that the "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."

Added Jennifer Chang Newell, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, "The court’s ruling confirms that Arizona’s discrimination against these young immigrants violates our Constitution. Gov. 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."

The coalition challenging the law includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, the Mexican American Legal and Educational Fund and the ACLU of Arizona.

The appeals court ruling was on a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law. The federal court has said that DREAMers suffered “irreparable harm” because of Brewer’s policy, particularly because the denial of a driver’s license limits employment opportunities.

The court also said plaintiffs may be successful in establishing that Brewer’s arbitrary ban improperly infringes on the federal government’s exclusive immigration authority by inhibiting plaintiffs’ ability to work as authorized.

Brewer, in a statement, said the appeals court "has once again dealt a blow to Arizona's ability to enforce its laws. With today's decision, a three-judge appellate panel, appointed by Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama, has disregarded judicial precedent and procedure. This continues us down a dangerous path in which the courts and the President — not Congress — make our nation's laws. The ruling is especially disturbing given the current influx of illegal aliens, a crisis President Obama created and escalated." 

Brewer, in the statement, said she was "analyzing options for appealing the misguided court decision. The American people are tired and disgusted by what is happening through our federal government today, but they can be assured Arizona will continue to fight for the rule of law."