Supreme Court Refuses to Allow Arizona to Deny Driver’s Licenses to Immigrant Youth

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
December 17, 2014 2:41 pm

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Supreme Court Rules That DREAMers Can Apply for Licenses Pending Its Review of State's Appeal Request

December 17, 2014

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Washington, D.C. – Immigrant youth will be allowed to receive driver’s licenses in Arizona while the Supreme Court considers whether or not to hear an appeal of a Ninth Circuit ruling in Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer, a lawsuit challenging the state’s denial of licenses to immigrants who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) under a federal program.

Arizona had asked the high court to stay the Ninth Circuit Court’s mandate while it considered Arizona’s request for certiorari, or judicial review of the federal appeals court ruling in the case.

"This is a victory for the community. It will change many lives for the better,” said Carla Chavarria, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “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."

The Supreme Court’s denial of Arizona’s stay motion opens the way for the state's district court to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting Arizona from continuing to deny driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. Once the district court enters an injunction, the young immigrants would be allowed to receive driver’s licenses.

“This order is a big holiday gift to the DREAMers – and a lump of coal for Governor Brewer,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It’s time for Arizona leaders to put this unwise, discriminatory policy behind them and let it end with Governor Brewer’s term.”

Today’s decision is the latest victory in a civil rights coalition’s lawsuit against the policy, ordered by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in 2012 shortly after the Obama administration announced its DACA program. In July, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the policy was likely unconstitutional and that the group of young people—who have permission from the federal government to live and work in the U.S.—are seriously impaired by their inability to get drivers’ licenses.

“Justice, in this case, took more than two years to finally be delivered, but we’re no less pleased with the outcome,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney with the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). “Soon, immigrant youth will be able to contribute more fully to their communities and economy, and they’ll finally have the identification proving on paper what they already know: that they are Arizonans.”

“Arizona continues to appeal and lose, at great tax payer expense,” said Victor Viramontes, national senior counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) . “Now, the federal courts are directing Arizona to issue drivers’ licenses to DACA recipients and stop their established pattern of violating constitutional rights.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the NILC, the MALDEF, and the ACLU of Arizona challenged the executive order and related policies in court, alleging that the ban violates DACA recipients’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law as well as the principles of federal supremacy in the area of immigration policy and law.

For a copy of today’s decision by the Supreme Court, click here.

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