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Appeals Court Strikes Down Jan Brewer’s Order Refusing Driver’s Licenses to DREAMers

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Almost two years ago, on the first day that DREAMers were allowed to sign up for DACA, news coverage featured young immigrants in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles lining up by the thousands while waiting for help with their paperwork.  Meanwhile, in Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer chose the exact same day to make a particularly cruel and spiteful announcement: that DREAMers, regardless of DACA, would not be allowed to drive in her state, even though they would be allowed to drive in others.

Two years later, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked Brewer’s executive order, agreeing with DREAMer plaintiffs that the state’s refusal to grant DREAMers driver’s licenses harmed them, and thus violated their right to equal protection of the law.

As Dan Pochoda, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona — which with other groups brought the lawsuit against the state — told the Arizona Republic:

It’s a very important win for the plaintiffs, for the DREAMERS – many DREAMERS – who clearly have been very much harmed by this policy, this vindictive policy by the governor.

This policy was motivated by a political relationship (between) Gov. Brewer and Obama, and she had no good reason and no basis in the law to do this.

This was a legal battle that should not have been taken on – it was a bad policy, and very likely illegal.

According to an Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman, the appeals court ruling is under review.  It would be about time — nearly all other states (at least 45) allow DREAMers recognized by DACA to drive, putting Arizona in the extreme anti-DREAMer minority.  However, Jan Brewer’s office today issued a non-apologetic statement, continuing to argue that “the DACA Program does not grant any substantive rights and that only Congress can do that.”

However, USCIS’ instructions for DACA renewal, released last month, suggested otherwise, saying:

The fact that you are not accruing unlawful presence does not change whether you are in lawful status while you remain in the United States. However, although deferred action does not confer a lawful immigration status, your period of stay is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security while your deferred action is in effect and, for admissibility purposes, you are considered to be lawfully present in the United States during that time. Individuals granted deferred action are not precluded by federal law from establishing domicile in the U.S.