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Arizona Faces Setback In Immigrant Driver’s License Fight

The state of Arizona has long been at the forefront of the nation’s immigration debate. Home to such groups as the Minute Men, armed volunteers who patrolled the state’s border without law enforcement approval, Arizona has a reputation as being tough on undocumented immigrants. It is no surprise, then, that Arizona is at the center of yet another front in the ongoing battle over undocumented immigrants. This time Arizona finds itself on the defensive after being taken to court by immigrants who claim that they were improperly denied drivers licenses by the state.

At issue is the fact that the state of Arizona allegedly refused to issue driver’s licenses to immigrants who were eligible to remain in the country legally under a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The act, also known as the DREAM Act, was instituted by President Barack Obama as a way to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the country if they meet certain criteria, including having been in the U.S. since before their 16th birthdays. Five individuals who were denied their Arizona driver’s license, claiming they meet all the requirements needed to obtain it, sued the state in order to be granted their licenses. In the lawsuit, they state that without the licenses they are subject to difficulties in completing such basic tasks as going to the grocery store and attending church.

Governor Jan Brewer signed an executive order on August 15, 2012 which stated that the Deferred Action program does not and cannot grant legal status to illegal immigrants. Furthermore, it states that state officials must prevent those who qualify for Deferred Action from obtaining any states issued identification, including drivers licenses. Before the issuance of the executive order Arizona apparently accepted federal employment authorization documents as being sufficient for granting a driver’s license. Hence, Deferred Action recipients were eligible for an Arizona driver’s license before the governor issued her executive order.

In the most recent twist in the case, a federal judge has ruled that Arizona must turn over internal documents related to the allegations. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge David Campbell stated that Arizona did not provide a privilege log, and also failed to provide details as to which documents were used to justify the denial of the driver’s licenses. Though this ruling may amount to nothing more than a procedural step in the case, it does portend well for the plaintiffs.

Every day there are millions of immigrants who need help working their ways through the U.S. immigration system. If you or anyone you know needs help with an immigration matter, please contact the Austin immigration attorney at Lyttle Law Firm immediately by visiting our website or calling us at 512-215-5225.

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