A coalition of Arizona residents are calling on Gov. Jan Brewer to reverse her policy and allow deferred action recipients to apply for driver’s licenses.
On Aug. 15, the day the federal government began accepting applications for the federal program, Brewer issued an executive order barring deferred action recipients from getting driver’s licenses in Arizona. She contends that the program says its recipients are protected from deportation and are given work authorization but are not given a lawful status.
Under Arizona law, those who are eligible to get a driver’s license must be authorized to be in the country. That’s why, Brewer argues, those who are granted deferred action don’t qualify to get driver’s licenses in Arizona.
Group wants Gov. Brewer to ‘let the dreamers drive’
But Randy Parraz, president of the advocacy group dubbed Citizens for a Better Arizona, is challenging Brewer’s interpretation of what the deferred action program says. He argues being issued work authorization under the program in effect means that undocumented youth are authorized by the federal government to be in the country. Therefore, making them eligible to get driver’s licenses.
He also says he wants Brewer to “tone down her rhetoric” and “stop attacking dreamers” living in the Grand Canyon State.
“If they’re good enough to graduate from our high schools, if they are good enough to graduate from our universities, then they are good enough to apply for a driver’s license,” he said of dreamers who are granted deferred action.
Parraz was among the nearly 200 people—among them were dozens of dreamers—who crowded the Arizona State Capitol on Monday. They entered the House chamber hoping to deliver a letter to Brewer. The letter asks the governor to reverse her policy on driver’s licenses for dreamers who have been granted deferred action. It was signed by Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and several Latino state lawmakers.
The group wasn’t able to meet with the governor and was asked by police officers to leave the building after chanting phrases like, “Let the dreamers drive.” Three people were arrested for refusing to leave. Those individuals arrested are Saul Solis, Chimene Hawes and Sheila Ryan—all three are members of Citizens for a Better Arizona.
Democrats propose bills to give dreamers driver’s licenses
Monday was also the day the new Arizona State Legislature convened. Several Latino state lawmakers began the legislative session by vowing to propose bills that would allow deferred action recipients to get a driver’s license.
State Rep. Catherine Miranda (D-Phoenix) proposed last week a bill that would amend state law to say that undocumented youth who are granted deferred are eligible for a driver’s licenses.
State Sen. Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) is planning to propose a similar bill. His proposal seeks to put the issue on the ballot and let voters decide whether or not deferred action recipients should be allowed to apply for driver’s licenses.
Gallardo argues that allowing deferred action recipients to get a driver’s license would improve public safety because these young immigrants would have to pass a driving test and purchase insurance for their vehicles. But some opponents argue giving this group of immigrants driver’s licenses wouldn’t guarantee safer roads.
The state senator also noted that Arizona was the first state to ban driver’s licenses to deferred action applicants. At least five other states have followed suit, including Arkansas, Kansas and Michigan.
Arizona was also the first state where a coalition of civil rights groups—including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)—filed a lawsuit challenging Brewer’s driver’s license ban. Michigan was the second state.
Both litigations argue that deferred action recipients are authorized to be in the country, making them eligible to apply for driver’s licenses. The Arizona lawsuit states that Arizona’s driver’s license policy is unconstitutional, because it interferes with federal immigration law. The suit also says the policy discriminates against dreamers who are granted deferred action. That’s because those who are granted work permits by the federal government are able to apply for driver’s licenses in Arizona.