Arizona Dream Act Coalition, et al v. Brewer

September 18, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with a coalition of civil rights organizations, filed a class-action lawsuit challenging Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s unconstitutional executive order, which denies driver’s licenses to a specific class of immigrant youth despite their being authorized to live and work in the United States.

dreamers-223x223-v08.jpgDulce Matuz

On June 15, 2012, President Obama signed a memo calling for deferred action for undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children. The program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or “DACA,” allows young immigrants, who meet a specific set of criteria, to get work permits and Social Security Numbers, and lets them remain in the country without the threat of deportation for a renewable period of two years. 

On August 15, the same day that the DACA program was set to go into effect, Governor Brewer sought to sabotage the goals of the federal program by issuing an order that denies driver’s licenses to qualifying immigrant youth.  Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division implemented Brewer’s order on September 18, 2012. An estimated 1.76 million youth are eligible for the DACA program in the United States, including 80,000 in Arizona.

Dulce Matuz is the president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition (ADAC), which is a youth-led immigrants’ rights organization and a plaintiff in the case. Dulce arrived in the United States as a young teenager and put herself through college graduating with an electrical engineering degree. As a young undocumented woman, she faced legal barriers to pursuing her engineering dream, but she chose to fight for the right to contribute to the country that has been home to her since an early age. As president of ADAC, Dulce is a champion for other DREAMers, promoting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, Dulce’s determination is clear. She says, “We are Americans, and Americans don’t give up.”

The ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), along with cooperating counsel Polsinelli Shughart, PC, are challenging Governor Brewer’s executive order in the U.S. District Courtin Phoenixon behalf of ADAC, and individuals who are being denied Arizona driver’s licenses even though the federal government has authorized their presence in the country. The lawsuit says Arizona’s policy violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by interfering with federal immigration law, and also violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against certain non-citizens.

Even though the federal government has authorized DACA recipients to remain and work in the United States, Governor Brewer’s discriminatory policy creates a major obstacle for these talented young persons, making it difficult for them to be productive and fully participate in our communities. Without a driver’s license it is effectively impossible for them to accomplish essential aspects of daily life, such as going to the grocery store, attending church, bringing their children or younger siblings to medical appointments or to school, attending school, and obtaining or maintaining productive employment.

While the DACA program provides a temporary lifeline for many DREAMers who have been forced to lead hidden lives, it does not negate the need for Congress to enact federal legislation that provides a path to citizenship for many young people who came here as children, graduated from high school or served in the military, such as the DREAM Act. For over a decade, leaders in the business, military, education and faith communities have been calling for passage of such legislation in order to allow undocumented youth to fully and meaningfully contribute to American society. The DACA program also does not address the basic need to comprehensively fix our broken immigration system and provide permanent relief for qualifying hard working persons now forced to live in the shadows by outmoded laws and widespread bias.


Statistics image