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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Immigrants Best Arizona in Discovery Brouhaha

PHOENIX (CN) - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer must turn over internal documents on the alleged denial of driver's licenses to deserving immigrants, a federal judge ruled.

The Arizona Dream Act Coalition and five individuals had sued Brewer and the heads of Arizona's Department of Transportation and Motor Vehicle Division in November 2012 for refusing to issue driver's licenses to immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The individual plaintiffs claimed that 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."

Arizona failed to provide the court with a privilege log or details about what documents were related to the decision to deny licenses, but U.S. District Judge David Campbell found Wednesday that the state cannot invoke deliberative process privilege for a number of documents.

"Arizona has a policy in favor of full and open disclosure, as evidenced by Arizona's open meetings law," Campbell wrote. "Arizona state government officials, therefore, should reasonably expect that their deliberations in crafting policy are open to public scrutiny."

While there is evidence that the state considered this policy decision months before implementing it, Campbell says the lack of a detailed log forces the court to "guess" which of the documents relate to the change.

"The government is a party to this case and its intent in crafting the policy is a primary issue," Campbell wrote.

Gov. Brewer's August 2012 executive order stated 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."

Although the state must turn over a number of documents relating to the policy change, Campbell found that attorney-client privilege, which Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski invoked in a deposition, protects some of the documents.

"Having thus invoked the privilege, defendants will not be permitted at later stages of this litigation to describe that advice or to explain the reasons for the 2013 policy change by revealing information that was withheld on the basis of the attorney-client privilege," Campbell wrote.

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