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Arizona must issue driver's licenses to Dreamers

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Arizona must issue driver's licenses to Dreamers

A federal judge has ordered the state to begin issuing driver's licenses to young immigrants, known as Dreamers, starting next Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell issued the preliminary injunction on Thursday, overturning a 2012 executive order by Gov. Jan Brewer, which blocked young immigrants from getting driver's licenses, even if they were living in Arizona under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Brewer responded to the ruling Thursday night, saying she'd continue to appeal the case by pressing for a full review.

"It is outrageous that Arizona is being forced to ignore longstanding state law and comply with a flawed federal court mandate," the Republican governor said in a press release.

"It is important to remember that courts have yet to consider the full merits of the case, and I believe that Arizona will ultimately prevail," Brewer said.

This is one of a series of legal defeats suffered by the governor's office this week.

On Tuesday,  the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Wednesday a last-minute appeal by Brewer to block Dreamers from getting driver's licenses, as Justice Anthony Kennedy sent the case back to the 9th Circuit Court.

Last week, Campbell  refused Brewer's request to delay a ruling that struck down Arizona's bar on issuing driver's licenses to immigrants who have been granted deferred action status.

The decision affects at least 22,000 in Arizona who were granted work permits under President Barack Obama's 2012 decision to grant deferrals for young people from immigration proceedings and deportation.

Brewer fought deferred action immediately.

In August 2012, Brewer ordered state officials not accept work papers from DACA recipients.

Although Arizona bars issuing a license to anyone not "authorized under federal law," the DACA recipients found themselves able to remain in the state, but unable to drive because of Brewer's move.

Over the summer, a three-judge panel said there was no legitimate interest in treating the Dreamers differently.Arguing that the state's policy appears to be motivated by animosity to the young immigrants and is likely unconstitutional, the court ordered an injunction blocking Brewer's 2012 executive order.

"We discern no rational relationship between defendants’ policy and a legitimate state interest," wrote Judge Harry Pregerson for the judicial panel.

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.

Court ruling

IT IS ORDERED: 1. Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc. 29) is granted. 2. Until further order of this Court, Defendants and their officials, agents, and employees, and all persons acting in concert or participating with them, are enjoined from enforcing any policy or practice by which the Arizona Department of Transportation refuses to accept Employment Authorization Documents, issued under DACA, as proof that the document holders are authorized under federal law to be present in the United States for purposes of obtaining a driver’s license or state identification card. 3. To enable Defendants time to provide the necessary communications to their officers and employees, this order shall become effective on December 22, 2014.

Deferred action criteria

While those who receive deferred action status are commonly referred to as "Dreamers," the 2012 program is different than the proposed DREAM Act.

To be eligible for DACA, immigrants must have come to the United States before the age of 16 and have been under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012; they must have been living in the United States when DACA was announced and have continuously resided in the United States for at least the previous five years; and they must have graduated from high school, or obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces or the Coast Guard, or be currently enrolled in school. Additionally, they must not pose any threat to public safety: anyone who has been convicted of multiple misdemeanors, a single significant misdemeanor, or any felony offense is ineligible for DACA.

Last month, President Barack Obama announced an expansion of the DACA program, along with a slew of other executive actions on immigration enforcement. Under the new program, deferred status will last for three years, and the expansion covers all children who entered before Jan. 1, 2010, regardless of their current age.

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