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Ban on Migrant Driver’s Licenses Overruled by Court

driver-901196-m.jpgThe governor of Arizona’s order to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who have obtained work permits via President Obama’s deferred-action program was blocked this week by the 9th District Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision was a tremendous boon for immigration advocates who have argued that Arizona’s unequal treatment has harmed young immigrants. Many in the state of Arizona believe that the decision is politically charged and even the governor, Jan Brewer, made it clear without directly stating a political bias, that the panel of judges who had rendered the decision had been appointed by Democratic presidents including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.

Brewer believes that the decision could possibly set a dangerous precedent for the president and the courts making the nation’s laws rather than Congress. She stated that it is particularly unsettling considering the southern US border has been inundated recently with record numbers of migrants crossing into the country illegally. Representatives for the Arizona Department of Transportation say that the ruling is being reviewed and Governor Brewer is also considering any and all appeal options. Representatives for the American Civil Liberties Union, one of several civil rights groups that brought the lawsuit against the state of Arizona, say that the policy of denying driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants was politically motivated largely because of the Governor’s salty relationship with the current President.

In June of 2012 the Obama Administration launched the DREAM program – the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors program – which was implemented in an effort to address the issue of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who had been brought into the United States as minors. Under the DREAM program, individuals who are approved receive permission to stay in the US for two years and receive employment authorization documents which essentially amount to work permits. The very day the program went into effect in mid-August of 2012, Governor Brewer issued the order for state agencies not to issue driver’s licenses to immigrants who receive approval under DREAM.

Advocates argued in district court in May of 2013 that the governor’s policy was unconstitutional because it violated federal law. That argument was rejected, however, and federal Judge David Campbell said that there was a good possibility that advocates would be able to successfully argue that Arizona allowed some immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and denied others, particularly those who were protected under Obama’s DREAM program. Advocates made the argument that the governor’s policy expansion made it extremely difficult for immigrants to support themselves and become upstanding, contributing members of the community.

Conversely, attorney for the governor stated that the policy preventing immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses was the result of concerns about giving licenses to individuals who are not authorized to be in the US and the risks involved in such individuals using driver’s licenses to access public benefits to which they are not entitled.

If you or someone you know would like information on this or any other immigration issue, please visit the Lyttle Law Firm’s Austin immigration attorney by going to our website or call our Austin offices at 512-215-5225.