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The Fight for a Driver’s License in Arizona

Alessandra Soler of the American Civil Liberties Union discusses the lawsuit filed against the state for refusing to issue driver’s licenses to those who qualify for the the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. [Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services]

In true form, the State of Arizona has decided to deny driver’s licenses to those immigrants who applied for and were granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Challengers to this action are requesting internal documents and perhaps testimony from Gov. Jan Brewer in their efforts to show that her actions are illegal. The purpose of the request for internal documents is to see how the Governor came up with this policy and to uncover communications between the Governor’s office and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).

At the heart of the controversy is that it is believed that Brewer wanted to deny licenses to DACA recipients but wanted to do it in a manner that would not affect others in the country illegally. This, however, would violate the equal treatment guaranteed by the constitution. Yet Brewer’s executive order in August 2012 concluded that the DACA program did not authorize the DACA recipients to legally be present in the United States.

Unfortunately, because an equal protection argument was advanced, ADOT made a policy change to deny driver’s licenses to other immigrants on different deferred action programs, such as victims of domestic violence, etc.

Hopefully, the challengers of this policy will prevail and Arizona will be forced to provide driver’s licenses to those on deferred action. There is absolutely no sense in denying licenses to those permitted to remain in the United States to attend college, or for family unity. College students need to drive to college. Parents of young children need to drive their kids to school. Not granting the privilege of driving emasculates the deferred action status and defeats the purpose of these programs.