SCOTUS: Nah, 'dreamers' can keep licenses
Immigrants brought to Arizona illegally as children and protected from deportation under an Obama-era program on Monday applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear the state's appeal of a court ruling that blocked Arizona from denying them driver's licenses.
The case, decided by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2017, centered around a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, arguing Arizona was infringing on the federal power to make immigration policy by seeking to deny driver’s licenses to people protected under the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
"There are no more courts that the Arizona government can ask to overturn this victory, ensuring that DACA recipients can get driver's licenses in Arizona," said Karina Ruiz, executive director for the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.
"Court after court has found that Arizona's discriminatory attempt to prevent DACA recipients from obtaining driver's licenses was unlawful."
Arizona was the only state to deny licenses to DACA recipients, after then-Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order banning them from receiving one.
But as civil rights groups began fighting the order in court, Arizona began to comply. In 2014, the first Arizona ''dreamers,'' as they often are referred to, stood in line to apply for a driver's license.
For some, including 21-year-old Vianey Perez, a car is the only way to get an education. She needed the license to get to school east of the Goodyear home she grew up in.
"Driving is an essential thing," she said, during a press conference Monday. "It's not something that I can take the bus from Goodyear to Phoenix (daily).''
After the lower court ruled in the favor of the DACA recipients, the case made it's way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the court announced Monday it would not hear the appeal, leaving the 9th Circuit ruling in place.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement to The Republic he was disappointed in the decision because it sidestepped a more fundamental question about DACA.
“Our case has always been about more than just driver’s licenses," the statement reads. "It’s about the separation of powers and whether the president, any president, can unilaterally act and bypass Congress to create new laws."
He said it was now up to Congress to address DACA and provide a permanent solution.
President Barack Obama extended the protection to immigrants brought into the United States as children who have grown up here and only know this as their home. Last fall, President Donald Trump gave Congress until this month to enact a permanent solution, something that has not yet happened.
Maria Santillan is among the first DACA recipients who will begin to lose deportation protections and work permits. Hers expire March 2018. Video by Nick Oza/zacentral.com
A federal judge in January blocked Trump's order, allowing the DACA recipients to continue renewing their deportation protections and work permits. The Trump administration failed in an attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court accelerate a hearing to overturn that order, and instead is pursuing an appeal through regular procedural channels.
Some dreamers at Monday's press conference were bittersweet about the Supreme Court denial of the Arizona appeal in the driver's license case.
"I think its funny and it's sad that in 2018 we still have to celebrate that we were given the right to get a driver's license," said DACA recipient Adonias Arevalo.
"We are celebrating because this shows that this has been the power of the community. They didn't know we were going to take it up there. They thought that by blocking driver's licenses we were going to stay quiet, that we were going to be OK with it. But we didn't."
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