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TENSIONS HEAT UP AS ARIZONA

EXPANDS ITS BAN ON DRIVERS LICENSES FOR CERTAIN IMMIGRANTS

file6901253210642.jpgThe debate within the beltway immigration community continues as the House immigration group loses ground after dealing with ongoing controversy over Congress’ border efforts.

Tensions over the immigration issue also heat up out west as Arizona expands its driver’s license ban for certain immigrants. There is a rising belief that this ban will keep many immigrants from getting and keeping jobs because the opportunity to take advantage of public transit options in most areas of Arizona is non-existent or extremely limited.

The Arizona state governor, Jan Brewer, maintains that only Congress possesses the authority to allow licenses for undocumented immigrants, despite the power of the individual states to issue such licenses. The governor’s initial ban only covered those state residents who were part of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This program exempts undocumented immigrants who are actually children born to undocumented parents but who, by virtue of their birth on American soil, are themselves considered legal citizens.

After a state court judge ruled the governor’s actions inconsistent, the governor decided to expand the ban rather than stop it. Arizona is one of the only two states that deny driver’s licenses to young undocumented immigrants who are allowed to stay and work. The ban is now being expanded by the governor to cover any immigrant granted deferred action from deportation as well.

A major concern surrounding the ban lies in the fact that most of those the individuals directly affected by the decision are people who have been granted deferred action on their immigration statuses for humanitarian reasons, including being victims of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, or domestic violence.

The State of Arizona announced its policy change in court papers filed recently in federal court as part of a lawsuit accusing Gov. Jan Brewer of discriminating against young undocumented immigrants who are able to receive federal work permits because of President Barack Obama’s program of providing for deferred action from deportation in certain circumstances.

A total of at least 16,733 undocumented immigrants in Arizona have been granted the immigration status of “deferred action” since August 15, 2012, which was the date that Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program became effective. The program is targeted at assisting undocumented immigrants under age 31 brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 years old.

However, participants in that program have been unable to obtain driver’s licenses in Arizona, despitethe fact that the Obama administration has stated that the status of “deferred action” gives them an additional status known as “legal presence” in the U.S. Almost every other state permits deferred-action recipients to obtain driver’s licenses.

The policy change denying driver’s licenses to all deferred-action recipients, not just those approved under the president’s program, has gone into effect but will not be retroactive.

As an immigration attorney in the Austin, Texas area who focuses on the rights of immigrants, I understand very well the difficulties posed by the Arizona driver’s license issue. I feel strongly that any individuals who are affected by that problem should have a safe and legal way to get to work with a valid driver’s license from the state they live in.

Located in the Austin, Texas area, my practice deals with immigration law, as well as family law. I look forward to speaking with you about your unique situation when the time is right. To learn more about how we can assist you, please call 512-215-5225.