Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is not backing down from her decision to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented youth who are granted deportation reprieve and are given work permits under the deferred action program.
This comes nearly a month after the Department of Homeland Security clarified that undocumented youth who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are authorized by DHS to be present in the United States. That means that these undocumented young immigrants are considered to be lawfully present during the time deferred action is in effect.
But Brewer’s spokesman Matthew Benson told The Arizona Republic on Monday although the federal program grants these undocumented young immigrants legal authorization to be in the country, they still don’t have a lawful status to qualify them for a driver’s license. The governor made her decision to not back down from her executive order denying driver’s licenses to deferred action recipients after consulting with her legal team and reviewing the updated deferred action guidelines from DHS.
Benson also told the daily paper that Brewer and her legal team were not persuaded by DHS’s clarification on deferred action. He added that the governor’s executive order will stand because Brewer believes “the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have the authority to simply grant this population of people lawful status for unauthorized presence in this country.”
‘What part of lawfully present don’t you understand?’
Arizona is one of the only states left that still bars undocumented youth who are granted deferred action from getting driver’s licenses. Iowa and Michigan had also denied them this state benefit but both states recently reversed their decision after DHS clarified the guidelines for deferred action.
Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, noted that Arizona law requires residents to prove that they are “authorized under federal law” to be in the country in order to be eligible for driver’s licenses.
“If I had the governor in front of me, I would ask her: ‘What part of lawfully present don’t you understand?’” she told VOXXI.
Matuz added that Gov. Brewer and other leaders from the Republican Party “need to understand that the future of their party depends on how they treat dreamers, how they treat undocumented immigrants and how they treat the Latino community.”
Legal battle still ahead
Last November, the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition joined several civil rights organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)—to file a lawsuit against Brewer’s executive order.
They lawsuit states that Brewer’s executive order to ban deferred action recipients from getting driver’s licenses is unconstitutional, because it interferes with federal immigration law. The suit also says the order discriminates against dreamers who are granted deferred action. That’s because the state currently allows individuals who are granted other types of deferred action and are given work permits by the federal government to apply for driver’s licenses.
Matuz told VOXXI a hearing for the case is scheduled for March 22. She said they will be asking for a temporary injunction, which would allow deferred action recipients to apply for driver’s licenses while the lawsuit is pending in court.
“I’m not a lawyer, but I feel very strongly that we will win this case,” Matuz told VOXXI.