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Arizona Won’t Give Dream Act Kids Licenses

PHOENIX (CN) - Arizona unconstitutionally refuses to issue driver's licenses to immigrants authorized to remain in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, civil rights groups claim in Federal Court.

The Arizona Dream Act Coalition on Thursday sued Gov. Jan Brewer and the heads of Arizona's Department of Transportation and Motor Vehicle Division.

President Barack Obama's administration announced the program on June 15 for "young immigrants who came to the United States as children and are present in the country without a formal immigration status," according to the complaint.

To qualify, people must have come to the United States before they were 16, lived in the country for at least five years before the program's announcement, be enrolled in school or have graduated or obtained a general education development certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran; they must not have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, and must be younger than 30.

Gov. Brewer issued an executive order on Aug. 15 stating that "the Deferred Action program does not and cannot confer lawful or authorized status or presence upon the unlawful alien applicants" and that state agencies must "prevent Deferred Action recipients from obtaining eligibility ... for any ... state identification, including a driver's license."

Before Brewer's order, Arizona's Motor Vehicle Division "routinely accepted federal employment authorization documents, including those presented by noncitizens with deferred action, as evidence of authorized presence in the United States, and it routinely issued driver's licenses to persons presenting such documents who were otherwise qualified for a license, including noncitizens with deferred action," according to the complaint.

Now, the five individual plaintiffs say, they "are unable to obtain licenses to drive in Arizona despite being otherwise eligible for such licenses, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to accomplish essential aspects of daily life, such as going to the grocery store, attending church, bringing their children or younger siblings to medical appointments or to school, attending school, and maintaining or obtaining productive employment."

About 1.76 million people are eligible for the program, of whom about 80,000 live in Arizona, according to the complaint.

"While the federal government has recognized that DREAMers should be given the opportunity to further their contribution to and inclusion in our society, Arizona has instituted, once again, an unconstitutional and unjust policy that treats these young people as separate and unequal," Nicholás Espíritu, a plaintiff's attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said in a statement.

The plaintiffs seek a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop Arizona from "implementing or enforcing the state's illegal policy and practice of denying driver's licenses to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals grantees."

Plaintiffs are represented by three branches of the ACLU and three other law offices, including the National Immigration Law Center, MALDEF, and Polsinelli Shugart, in Phoenix.

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