Brewer appeals to Supreme Court over licenses for Dreamers
Gov. Jan. Brewer is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt a legal process that is set to result in driver's licenses being issued to people who have been granted deferred action from deportation by the federal government.
With an appeals court ruling set to become final next Tuesday, Brewer's outside attorneys filed a motion Thursday asking the high court to step into the case.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday refused Brewer's request to delay a ruling that struck down Arizona's bar on issuing driver's licenses to young immigrants who have been granted deferred action status. The move by the courts means those "Dreamers" will likely be eligible for licenses in a week.
Brewer had asked the court to stay a July ruling to allow for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In July, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit found that Arizona's policy of denying licenses to specific categories of immigrants would likely be found unconstitutional, issuing a preliminary injunction against enforcing the policy.
Last month, the full court denied a request for a rehearing on the issue.
Brewer had appealed the case after a May 2013 ruling in federal district court against denying licenses to those who have received permission to remain in the country under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which began in 2012. The program allows immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to stay in the country under renewable two-year terms.
Before refusing Arizona's request, the court invited the federal government to offer its own opinion on the issue. In a brief, federal officials said that Arizona's policy was unconstitutional and opposed a new hearing.
The 9th Circuit judges rejected Brewer's latest request without comment Tuesday. If the Supreme Court does not intervene in the case, a district judge will order the Arizona Department of Transportation to issue licenses to DACA recipients who are otherwise eligible to drive.
Justice Anthony Kennedy will review Brewer's request that the high court intervene in the case.
"We discern no rational relationship between Defendants’ policy and a legitimate state interest," wrote Judge Harry Pregerson in the July decision.
The unanimous 40-page decision ordered the case be sent back to a lower court, where U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell had denied an injunction in a suit filed on behalf of those in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The appeal court's remand directed Campbell to order the state Department of Transportation to provide licensees to DACA recipients, saying that the plantiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their case in a full trial.
Arizona law bars issuing a license to anyone whose presence is not "authorized under federal law."
Until August 2012, the state Department of Transportation listed federal employment authorization documents as proving such an authorized presence.
On Aug. 15, 2012, Brewer issued an executive order that meant state officials could not accept work papers from DACA deferred action recipients, who are immigrants who were brought here illegally as children who are allowed to stay in the United States for renewable two-year terms without fear of being deported.
Immigrants covered under the program are required to apply for work authorization documentation, which can be used to apply for a driver’s license in Arizona. But Brewer’s order stopped that.
After a suit was filed, the state again changed its policies, refusing to issue licenses to recipients of some other forms of deferred action, including crime victims and domestic violence survivors. Officials said that meant the policy did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as claimed in the suit.
"We hold that Plaintiffs are likely to suffer irreparable harm unless Defendants’ policy is enjoined," the appeals judge wrote. The state policy is a major barrier to employment for people who are required to apply for work permits under DACA, the court said. Further, the policy means the state impermissably "assumes for itself the federal prerogative of classifying noncitizens."
Because Arizona issues licenses to some who fall under other types of deferred action programs, the policy is an equal protection violation, the court ruled.
"In both cases, the federal government has allowed noncitizens to remain in the United States, has pledged not to remove them during the designated period, and has authorized them to work in this country," the judge wrote.
Brewer's policy "appears intended to express animus toward DACA recipients themselves, in part because of the federal government's policy toward them. Such animus, however, is not a legitimate state interest," the court said.