Carlos Martinez was one of the first 29 dreamers who were granted temporary permission to stay and work in the United States under the Obama administration’s deferred action program.
So far, nearly 4,600 undocumented young immigrants have been granted deferred action since the federal government began accepting applications more than two months ago.
But as these dreamers begin to apply for driver’s licenses issued to them under the federal program, Martinez won’t be able to obtain that benefit. That’s because the 30-year-old lives in Arizona where Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order to deny driver’s licenses to dreamers who are granted deferred action.
Martinez, who has lived in the U.S. since he was nine-years-old, told VOXXI he went to a Motor Vehicle Division office on Tuesday, showed his temporary social security number and work permit but was denied a driver’s license.
“Getting rejected made me feel sad,” he said. “I felt that instead of taking a step forward, I was taking a step back because I couldn’t get my driver’s license.”
Deferred action dreamers to sue Brewer
Now, Martinez is joining several civil rights organizations that are preparing to sue Gov. Brewer and her office, challenging her executive order to deny drivers’ licenses to deferred action beneficiaries. On Tuesday, he met with several members of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, one of the groups suing, and agreed to be part of the lawsuit.
The other organizations that are suing include the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).
Their attorneys argue that the deferred action program grants undocumented youth authorization to be in the country, making them eligible to apply for driver’s licenses. Current state law requires individuals to have an authorized presence in the country in order to apply for a driver’s license.
Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, calls Brewer’s executive order “unconstitutional” and said the governor “is basically signaling out dreamers.”
She told VOXXI that representatives from the ACLU are currently meeting with dreamers, like Martinez, who will form part of their lawsuit against Brewer and her office. She said ACLU attorneys don’t have a timeframe for when they plan to file the lawsuit but that they plan to file it soon.
Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Brewer, told VOXXI the governor’s office is aware of the lawsuit and is prepared to defend the executive order.
Contrary to what the civil rights organizations that are suing claim, Benson argues that the deferred action program does not grant undocumented youth a lawful presence in the country, which is required to apply for a driver’s license in Arizona. Instead, he said the federal program delays their deportation.
“The Department of Homeland Security has been clear on all these points, so the state of Arizona is not in position to grant them driver’s license,” he told VOXXI.
But for Martinez, getting a driver’s license is crucial as he prepares to apply for his dream job. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in software systems engineering, yet he hasn’t been able to apply for a job in those fields because he is undocumented.
Seven years have passed since he earned those degrees from the University of Arizona and now at 30, he is finally applying to work for Google, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft. On Thursday, he had an interview with IBM.
Martinez said once he gets his dream job, Brewer’s executive order would not stop him from getting to work.
“I know how to use the city bus, so I guess I’ll take the city bus everyday,” he told VOXXI.