Legal battle brewing over driver’s licenses for deferred action recipients in Arizona
Brewer’s decision not to issue licenses sparked immediate criticism from activist organizations.
By EMILY DERUY
Young immigrants granted deferred action face an uphill battle in securing driver’s licenses in Arizona, and that could become a problem in other states.
The announcement that individual states would be left to decide whether to issue licenses sent state governments scrambling to put policies in place, and only a handful have announced their plans.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued an order saying her state would not be issuing driver’s licenses to deferred action recipients. Nebraska has also said it will not grant them.
California and Michigan have said the work permits will allow recipients to obtain licenses, and Georgia has said it will award licenses to deferred action recipients who meet all the requirements. Maryland allows those with “status documents” to apply for licenses and a spokesman for the state said officials are checking to see if the work authorization permit granted to deferred action recipients counts.
New York is also still evaluating how to proceed, and Illinois, New Mexico and Washington don’t require residents to prove they are citizens or in the United States legally to get a license, Ian Grossman, a spokesman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators told Businessweek.
Even the earliest applicants are months from knowing whether they have been granted a two-year deferral, and yet the legal challenges to Brewer’s order have already started to roll in.
According to Businessweek, Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson says the governor is simply trying to defend existing laws.
“The governor can’t undo what the president has done, but she can take a stand for state law,” he said. “By no definition are these individuals lawfully present or lawfully authorized to be in the United States. All they have received is a deferral from being prosecuted or deported.”
But the Arizona Republic reports that Brewer’s order contradicts the current practice in Arizona of granting licenses to undocumented immigrants who have been granted work permits as part of other types of deferred action.
“We are going to have to see how this process is implemented and what the practical effects are going to be,” Alessandra Soler, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, told the Republic.
Her organization will likely file suit if Brewer’s order stands.
“It’s pretty clear that as long as you have deferred action and you do have a work permit, then you are eligible to receive a driver’s license,” she said. “So we think that the state law is very clear that it already accepts the employment-authorization document for the purposes of state-issued IDs, as does federal law.”
(Photo: Flickr, Gage Skidmore)