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Arizona Dreamers smiling for driver's license photos
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Arizona Dreamers smiling for driver's license photos

It’s not every day someone looks forward to going to MVD, but Monday was different for many Arizonans.

That’s because Arizona Dreamers qualifying under the federal DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program for the first time could apply for an Arizona driver’s license at the Motor Vehicles Division.

A U.S. district judge cleared their way by quashing an executive order and legal challenge by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who denied driver’s licenses to DACA grantees – immigrant youth who were brought to this nation as young children without proper documentation, but have been model residents thought their educational studies, employment or service to our armed forces.

The federal court ruling was a temporary injunction against Brewer, with a Jan. 7 hearing to decide whether to make the injunction permanent.

The driver’s-license barriers have been in place since soon after DACA took effect more than two years ago, affecting some 22,000 Arizona Dreamers. This is Arizona’s Don Quixote windmill, to somehow overturn U.S. Supreme Court rulings that immigration is a federal issue, not a state’s rights mantra.

Most states get it. In fact, Arizona is but one of only two states to defy federal recognition of DACA recipients and deny them driver’s licenses, which begs the question: When will Arizona finally put to rest its SB 1070 quest?

As a state, we cannot on one hand say we have moved beyond our notorious national and international reputation for being anti-immigrant and seemingly anti-Latino, and then on the other hand wag our finger or issue back-handed policy that flies in the face of legal rulings and logic.

There are other questions, as well:

Why wouldn’t we want all drivers on the road to be licensed – especially for auto insurance purposes?

Why do we say we want “them” to respect our laws, yet keep them “illegal” even when the undocumented worker wants only to drive to work without fear of being pulled over and driving without a license?

If we truly want to show the United States and the world that Arizona is like anywhere else, why wouldn’t we provide driver’s licenses to all federally recognized workers as does every state (except, ahem, for Nebraska)?

And why doesn’t policy take precedence over politics in Arizona – until, that is, a court slaps our hand for again reaching into the unconstitutional cookie jar?

Such questions may not end with the conclusion of the Brewera dministration. In his campaign, Gov.-elect Doug Ducey pledged to carry forward the no-licenses torch after Brewer’s term expires next month, despite vowing a return of Arizona’s reputation for business respectability.

With no offered solutions other than “deport them all” and “secure the border” rhetoric, we cannot continue to pass as sincere debate largely symbolic if not illegal frowns and scowls toward our immigrant residents.

But this week, many Arizona Dreamers were smiling for their driver’s license photos.

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

The director of communications for the Morrison Institute of Public Policy at ASU, Garcia is a longtime, award-winning journalist whose experience as a top editor, columnist and reporter included positions at The Arizona Republic, The Daily Times, Tucson Citizen, USA Today and The Associated Press.

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