Dreamers in Arizona Fight for a Green Light

Arizona Dreamers may soon be behind the wheel. A class action lawsuit was filed Thursday challenging Gov. Jan Brewer’s August 15th executive order barring beneficiaries of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or the group more commonly known as the “Dreamers” from getting driver’s licenses. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and five plaintiffs. The Arizona Dream Act Coalition is a youth-led organization that fights for immigrant rights.

The coalition argues that the executive order violates both the Supremacy Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Supremacy Clause is allegedly violated by Arizona’s interference with federal immigration law. “Arizona’s creation of its own immigration classification impermissibly intrudes on the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate immigration.”

The lawsuit argues that Equal Protection is violated because the executive order denies driver’s licenses to certain groups of non-citizens. Others with work permits are eligible for driver’s licenses.

Being denied the right to drive is a huge disadvantage to Dreamers in Arizona. It presents an unnecessary barrier for those individuals who need a driver’s license to get to work and/or school. In a state with subpar public transportation, Dreamers need to be eligible for driver’s licenses. In many other states Dreamers are eligible to drive.

An estimated 1.76 million youths are eligible for the DACA program – Arizona accounts for over 80,000 of them. About 11,000 individuals in Arizona have applied for the program.

DACA provides two years of deferred action status and a work permit for the approved individuals. To be eligible, applicants must have entered the United States before they were 16, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, prove continuous presence in the United States for five years (from June 15, 2007) and be a high school graduate, have a GED or be currently enrolled in school.

The reelection of President Obama signifies the high likelihood of immigration reform – perhaps even a path to a more permanent status. In the meantime, Dreamers have DACA and hopefully, for those in Arizona, they will also be eligible for driver’s licenses.

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