PHOENIX (CN) – A federal judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit against Arizona for denying driver's licenses to immigrants protected from deportation due to domestic violence against them.
According to the proposed class action filed this past September, the state used a 2012 executive order signed by then-Gov. Jan Brewer to deny driver's licenses to immigrants exempt from deportation.
Brewer, a Republican, issued the order after then-President Barack Obama announced that undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors and meeting certain criteria would receive temporary relief from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
In the order, Brewer said DACA did not give the immigrants “any lawful or authorized status” and did not provide them entitlement to public benefits like driver's licenses.
The Arizona Dream Act Coalition challenged Brewer's order, which the Ninth Circuit ruled illegally usurped an "exclusive federal authority."
The state claimed the plaintiffs in this lawsuit lacked standing to bring their claims because they were actually eligible for Arizona driver's licenses.
U.S. District Judge David Campbell found there was standing, however, since four of the plaintiffs were denied licenses.
"Arizona was trying to throw out the case, and the judge told them that no, this case is going to move forward," said Victor Viramontes, an attorney for the plaintiffs and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Los Angeles.
The state conceded the denials were due to employment documents presented by the plaintiffs that showed deferred status due to domestic violence but were "not alone sufficient to show authorized presence and obtain an Arizona driver's license." Immigrants with other types of deferred status were granted driver's licenses though, Campbell said in the Jan. 26 ruling.
While the state said these individuals were eligible for driver's licenses under state policy, it could not provide evidence of where a person could go to learn about these policies.
"In short, plaintiffs have alleged that ADOT’s policy denies them licenses, and defendants have not shown a public policy to the contrary," Campbell found.
Invitations by the state for the plaintiffs to come to the Arizona Department of Transportation to get driver's licenses also does not render the proposed class action moot.
"(T)he Ninth Circuit has made clear that a defendant’s offer to fully satisfy the claims of named plaintiffs will not moot a class action or prevent the plaintiffs from seeking class certification," Campbell said.
Viramontes told Courthouse News that while Campbell allowed the "status quo" to remain the same, he did acknowledge the plaintiffs have a claim.
"There is nothing that the judge said that indicated what the state was doing is legal," Viramontes said.
Campbell granted the state time to conduct discovery before he rules on a motion for class certification or preliminary injunction.
He also denied dismissal of current Gov. Doug Ducey. While Ducey did not execute Brewer's order, Campbell found the plaintiffs "brought suit against Gov. Ducey in his official capacity, rendering irrelevant whether he or one of his predecessors issued the executive order."
An attorney for the state did not respond to a request for comment.
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