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Arizona Can’t Deny|Licenses to Dreamers

PHOENIX (CN) - Young immigrants protected from deportation by the so-called Dream Act may obtain Arizona driver's licenses, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The decision makes permanent U.S. District Judge David Campbell's temporary injunction issued in December, forcing Arizona to allow "dreamers" to get driver's licenses.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, announced in 2012 by President Barack Obama, deferred immigration-related actions against adults younger than 31 who were brought to the country as children, have lived in the United States continuously, gone to school and not committed any crimes.

On the day the program began, then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order directing state agencies to prevent DACA recipients from receiving any "state identification, including a driver's license."

The Arizona Dream Act Coalition and a number of individuals sued Brewer and the heads of Arizona's Department of Transportation and Motor Vehicle Division in November 2012, claiming the state unconstitutionally refused to issue driver's licenses to immigrants authorized to remain in the United States under DACA.

"The court is not saying that the Constitution requires the State of Arizona to grant driver's licenses to all noncitizens," Judge Campbell wrote in Thursday's order. "But if the state chooses to confer licenses on some individuals who have been temporarily authorized to stay by the federal government, it may not deny them to similarly situated individuals without a rational basis for the distinction."

Before DACA was announced, Arizona's Motor Vehicle Division "accepted all federally issued [employment authorization documents] as sufficient evidence that a person's presence in the United States was authorized under federal law, and therefore granted driver's licenses to these individuals," the ruling states.

After the announcement though, the state found employment authorization documents were not sufficient evidence of a person's authorized presence in Arizona.

Because the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, an immigrant youth-led community organization, sought relief on behalf of its members, Campbell said the permanent injunction should apply to all DACA recipients.

"Requiring state officials at driver's license windows to distinguish between DACA recipients who are members of the Coalition and those who are not is impractical, and granting an injunction only with respect to the named plaintiffs would not grant the Coalition the relief it seeks on behalf of its members," Campbell wrote.

The ACLU, which represented the plaintiffs, hailed the ruling.

"Today's decision paves the way for these young immigrants to contribute more fully to our communities and sends a clear message to Gov. [Doug] Ducey that his predecessor's anti-immigrant policies were legally flawed and came at a great cost to Arizona taxpayers," said ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler.

Campbell's temporary injunction in December came after a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed Campbell's denial of an injunction. The 9th Circuit later denied en banc review in the case.

In 2013, Campbell did not immediately block Brewer's order, finding then that Arizona's "driver's license policy does not concern the arrest, prosecution, or removal of aliens from the state or the nation."

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