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'Dreamers' begin getting Az driver's licenses

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'Dreamers' begin getting Az driver's licenses

  • A Motor Vehicle Division office in Tucson.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comA Motor Vehicle Division office in Tucson.

For Erick Lizarraga, 18, getting a driver's license means a little more freedom and a little less fear.

Until last week, Lizarraga was one of 22,000 "Dreamers" in Arizona, granted a work permit under President Barack Obama's 2012 decision to grant deferred deportation to young people, but unable to get a driver's license in the state.

Just after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was announced, Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order that state officials could not accept work papers from DACA recipient, blocking young immigrants from getting driver's licenses. 

However, last Thursday U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell issued a preliminary injunction overturning Brewer's order and forcing the state begin issuing driver's licenses to "dreamers" beginning on Monday.

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

"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.

While in Phoenix large groups of Dreamers came out to get their licenses, in Tucson the MVD office was relatively quiet.

Lizarraga, an engineering student at Pima Community College, went early Monday morning to the Motor Vehicles Division and applied for a license.

"It's a really great thing to have," Lizarraga said, after receiving a temporary license on Monday. "It makes me feel safer and like I'm accepted into society." 

Lizarraga was born in Mexico, but his parents brought him to the United States when he was 8, making him eligible to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

He said he discovered he was undocumented when he realized that Arizona's controversial SB 1070 was focused on people like his family.

"We've been living here, but I just never really thought about it until the law came out and people started talking about the issue. It was really difficult," he said.

Last week, the governor's office faced a series of legal defeats in an attempt to keep licenses from the so-called Dreamers.

On Dec. 17, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected 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.

On Dec. 18, Campbell refused Brewer's request to delay his ruling, instead ordering the state to begin providing licenses to DACA recipients, giving the state until Monday to communicate with staff.

Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Ryan Harding did not have a total driver license count Monday night, however he said "the way the numbers are trending so far, in general, the number of licenses issued today is up 41 percent over last Monday."

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