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Lawsuit Challenges AZ Ban on Driver’s Licenses for DREAMers

PHOTO: Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. CREDIT: Zimbio
PHOTO: Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. CREDIT: Zimbio
November 30, 2012

PHOENIX – Immigrant and civil rights groups are suing to reverse Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's ban on driver's licenses for young immigrants granted work permits under President Obama's deferred-action program.

The federal court lawsuit claims Brewer's executive order violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jennifer Chang Newell says so-called DREAMers cannot be denied licenses when others with the same work permits can legally drive.

"It directly conflicts with federal immigration law because the federal government has authorized these young immigrants to live and work in this country, and they're therefore eligible for driver's licenses in Arizona."

Governor Brewer insists the deferred-action program does not grant lawful status and that the program amounts to "backdoor amnesty."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition and five young individuals. Coalition president Dulce Matuz says it represents not only a legal fight, but also a moral fight.

"We can't allow Governor Brewer to continue harassing hard-working American children and young individuals whose only fault is having a dream of success in the land of opportunity."

ACLU Arizona director Alessandra Soler says the ban on driver's licenses for DREAMers is just the latest episode in Arizona's proxy fight with the federal government over immigration.

"Not only is this wrong and mean-spirited, it's completely out of line with the constitutional guarantees that prevent government from treating people differently based on race, ethnicity, or in this case, immigration status."

Shiu Ming Cheer, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, says the young people she represents in this case are "Arizonans in every way possible."

"They've shown that they're loyal to the state of Arizona by attending elementary school, junior high, high school and college here. They have families and lives here. They want to pursue their dreams and be able to contribute back to the state of Arizona, but the governor has put a roadblock in the path of their dreams."

The deferred-action program allows certain undocumented immigrants who came here as children to live and work in the U.S. for a renewable two-year period. More than 11,000 have applied for the program in Arizona.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ