Court Orders Arizona to Provide Young Immigrants Access to Driver Licenses

DREAM-ers in Arizona discuss the significance of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that forces the southwestern state of Arizona to provide DACA recipients with driver licenses

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Story Transcript

OSCAR LEÓN, TRNN PRODUCER: On Monday, July 7, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the southwestern state of Arizona to provide with driver licenses to a group of undocumented immigrants brought to U.S. as children that fall under a special status created by President Obama two years ago.

Arizona Governor Janice Brewer said she will appeal the decision. She also directly blamed the current influx of minors and families over the Texan border on President Obama’s decision on June 15, 2012, to not deport minors who fell under certain qualifications and to grant them with a new special immigrant status known as DACA.

Some of the qualifications are:

    to be are under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012;

    to have come to the U.S. while under the age of 16; and

    to not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

In addition, every applicant must complete and pass a biographic and biometric background check.

The story of the lawsuit goes back to August 15, 2012, two months after President Obama signed the DACA memo.

In Arizona, Reyna Montoya and a group of activists had just applied for DACA and were ready to celebrate.

REYNA MONTOYA, AZ DREAM ACT COALITION: We were celebrating. We were so happy. We had a press conference in the morning at our office. And then, just hours later, Governor Brewer decides to do an executive action saying that she was going to deny drivers licenses specifically for the for-action applicants from childhood arrivals who are DACA recipients. So we were really mad.

CARLA CHAVARRIA, AZ D REAM ACT COALITION: We went to the capital and we decided to protest against this. But a couple of months after the ACLU, along with other organizations, decided to file a lawsuit, just calling it unconstitutional.

LEÓN: On May 2013, U.S. district judge David Campbell sided with Brewer against the plaintiffs’ argument of unconstitutionality. They then appealed, and the case eventually went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

MONTOYA: It has no rationale. If you look at the executive order from Governor Brewer, like, it’s very inconsistent and it doesn’t really have any reasons or any legitimate reasons for her. Why was she denied a driver’s license for someone who has work authorization to work here in United States? It makes no sense. And, actually, the Ninth Circuit decision said that it was something out of hatred, out of malice. That was the only reason that they could think why Governor Brewer was acting the way that she was.

LEÓN: And so, 23 months after the lawsuit was filed, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled the governor’s ban unconstitutional.

Alessandra Soler, American Civil Liberties Union’s executive director, agrees with the court’s decision.

ALESSANDRA SOLER, ACLU EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, I mean, the governor definitely tried to, you know, rationalize what in our view was blatant discrimination. She made the decision based in not legitimate public interest or a legitimate public policy interest but on her, you know, politicking. And her decision was basically to pick a fight with the federal government, and these kids, these hardworking immigrants, were caught in the middle.

LEÓN: Governor Brewer reacted to the loss in court by issuing a statement:

“The ruling is especially disturbing given the current influx of illegal aliens, a crisis President Obama created and escalated. I am analyzing options for appealing the misguided court decision.”

She went on to say,

“If the Ninth Circuit ruling is allowed to stand, the president, as he has already threatened, can contrive a new program refusing to deport the latest arrivals, issue employment authorization cards, and Arizona would have to issue licenses to them as well.”

The governor went a step further and claimed,

“The DACA Program, the decision to not enforce federal law, has directly led to the massive influx of illegal crossings and the crisis we are witnessing today.”

Soler believes that the court saw through Brewer’s conjectures and political games and ruled they were violating the rights of the DACA recipients.

SOLER: And this was a huge, huge victory for these young immigrants. And it sends a really, really strong message to the governor that she cannot rationalize discrimination–and in this case, that’s exactly what the court found–and she can’t make decisions based off of spite and a hatred towards these young immigrants.

You know she claims that this has nothing to do with the dreamers, it’s about Obama, you know, ignoring the rule of law. Well, Brewer attacks everyone who disagrees with her as being lawless, and the court, the Ninth Circuit, saw trough this. And the Ninth Circuit said, you’re the one, in fact, that’s being lawless, you’re the one that’s violating the Constitution, and you’re the one that’s violating the rights of these young immigrants.

LEÓN: The core argument of the lawsuit is that only the federal government can enforce immigration laws, and that by trying to interfere with that process, Arizona’s governor was overstepping her lawful boundaries.

SOLER: There is a language in the U.S. Constitution that’s called the Supremacy Clause that says that the federal government is the entity that is expressly in charge of regulating immigration, and that states don’t have any business and don’t have any authority regulating immigration.

LEÓN: The Arizona governor’s main argument is that President Obama’s memo authorizing DACA is not equal to a Federal Law. This is a quote from her statement released after the loss in court:

“Arizona law, [A.R.S. § 28-3153(D),] is very clear: ‘Notwithstanding any other law, the department shall not issue to or renew a driver license or nonoperating identification license for a person who does not submit proof satisfactory to the department that the applicant’s presence in the United States is authorized under federal law.’ [emphasis Brewer’s] As a result, the Arizona Department of Transportation has a policy that DACA–as well as deferred action and deferred enforced departure individuals–do not demonstrate authorized presence under federal law.”

According to Soler, the judges’ ruling not only dismissed Brewer argument but reinforced the plaintiffs’ argument that states have no business regulating immigration law.

SOLER: They’re attempting to regulate immigration, and they don’t have the authority to do that. So one of the judges in this case actually said, hey, you’ve got a really good argument moving forward that her policy, not only does it discriminate against the DREAMers, but it possibly violates this Supremacy Clause by improperly interfering with the federal government’s ability to regulate immigration.

LEÓN: This is exactly the same argument used by the U.S. Supreme Court to rule out parts of the SB 1070, Governor Brewers’ first attempt to rule and regulate immigration in 2012.

But life is now about to change for these young Americans who only in Arizona and Nebraska had to endure for another two years the great inconvenience of living as subcitizens, not being able to drive in a place with a deficient public transportation system and temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. This is just one of the problem they face day to day.

MAXIMA GUERRERO, AZ DREAM ACT COALITION: Me specifically, I wanted to go into the criminal justice field. I want to–I am studying criminal justice. And I wanted to go into law enforcement. And because I don’t have a driver’s license and I’m not a citizen, I can’t go join and protect my community that I’ve always wanted to protect since I was little. And I can’t go into the career that I want. I can’t–if there’s an emergency at the house and my younger siblings have an emergency, I wouldn’t be able to drive them somewhere. I wouldn’t be able to go to their games or their sports. It’s, like, little things like that, like returning something at the store and you don’t have a valid ID.

KORINA IRIBE, AZ DREAM ACT COALITION: It was kind of like a big shock when I started to grow up and started to see, like, Arizona in the political aspect of things and how I was being treated and how, you know, my family and our society as Latinos was being treated, because, like you said, growing up I had a lot of friends. I had white friends, black friends, you know, Mexican friends. And everything was great until, you know, as a DREAMer, when I started realizing all the obstacles of having to go to school and pay 300 percent tuition because of laws like Proposition 300, not being able to get scholarships, the anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070 here in Arizona, so anti-Latino. It was scary. And it was like, really, this is my home, this is where I grew up, and it’s really sad that now Arizona is turning its back on me.

~~~

CHAVARRIA: When I travel to other states and stuff, they’re always like, oh, you’re from Arizona? And they have that kind of, like, oh, kind of like–

OFF-CAMERA: I’m sorry.

CHAVARRIA: –I’m sorry for you, you know, kind of a feel.

~~~

MONTOYA, AZ DREAM ACT COALITION: I think there’s a lot of momentum, and I’ve seen how the community has really gotten active, not only being educated and creating awareness amongst our communities and really helping each other not only to grow[, go to education?], but protecting our families [as in stopping?] deportations. My dad deportation was stopped. And we here in the organization really try to really make it about our lives and really humanizing the issue that this is not about politics. But we do have Republicans who act out of hatred. But also we have Democrats who are not willing to take a stand for our communities and are not willing to protect them. So, for us it has never been about party but about our communities.

LEÓN: The Real News will continue to report about this case and other immigration issues. For The Real News, this is Oscar León.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.