Ariz. Dreamers Can Keep Driver's License

By Julissa Catalan


A federal judge in Arizona has granted Dreamers—young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents—permanent driver’s licenses.

The ruling comes one month after U.S. District Judge David Campbell issued a temporary injunction forcing Arizona to start allowing Dreamers who have work permits through President Barack Obama’s deferred-action program to get licenses.

This new ruling overturns the previous ban put in place by former Governor Jan Brewster, who signed an executive order denying a driver’s license to Dreamers who had obtained work permits through Obama’s program.

In 2012, more than 20,000 Arizona-based Dreamers were given work permits—and deferred deportation—through the program.

The argument was that the ban on driver’s licenses for Dreamers limited their access to job opportunities—either causing them to lose out on jobs or to drive illegally.

The ban was also considered discriminatory toward Dreamers because other work permits for non-citizens allow for them to have a driver’s license.

Lawyers and politicians in favor of the ban countered that because Obama’s program was created outside of immigration laws passed by Congress, Dreamers who receive work permits through the program do not have a legal presence in this country—making them ineligible for driver’s licenses under state law, which requires applicants to prove their legal presence.

The judge disagreed, and noted that all non-citizens should have the same opportunities.

Brewster, who left office earlier this month, vowed to take this case to the Supreme Court should the ban be overturned.

New Governor Doug Ducey—who replaced Brewster on Jan. 5—has yet to disclose where he stands on this matter.

Meanwhile, Obama’s deferred-action program is anticipated to expand in February, and will include the elimination of an age maximum, which will then give even more Dreamers the opportunity to apply for the program.

The work permits will also be extended from two years to three.

As part of his executive action, President Obama also announced a deferred-action program for undocumented parents with U.S.-citizen children.

Over 4 million undocumented parents are anticipated to become eligible for deportation deferments and work permits under the program, which goes into effect in May.

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