PHOENIX — Attorneys for dreamers are asking a federal appeals court to make good on its ruling their clients are entitled to driver’s licenses while they challenge Jan Brewer‘s interpretation of Arizona law.
In pleadings to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the lawyers for civil rights groups pointed out to the judges they ruled just last month the policy of denying licenses to those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was likely unconstitutional.
The appellate judges ordered U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell, who had initially denied an injunction on behalf of the dreamers, to direct the state Department of Transportation to start issuing the licenses.
But Campbell refused. He said the ruling by the three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit was not final, with the state asking the judges to reconsider their decision. So the attorneys for the dreamers now want appellate judges to override Campbell and issue the injunction themselves.
“They’re being discriminated against by the state on a daily basis,” said attorney Jorge Castillo of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “And the fruits of that are felt every day,” he said, as the dreamers, allowed to remain and work, find they cannot get the licenses they say they need to get to school or their jobs.
The fight is over the 2012 decision by the Obama administration to allow those who arrived as children before a certain date and meet other qualifications to remain without fear of deportation. They also are issued papers authorizing them to work in this country.
At last count, more than 23,000 Arizonans had applied, with close to 20,000 getting approved.
But Brewer, in an executive order, said the federal program does not meet the requirements of a 1996 Arizona law that allows licenses to be issued only to those “authorized” to be in the country. Brewer contends the decision by the president and the Department of Homeland Security not to deport them does not “authorize” them to be here.
No court has ruled on the merits of the challenge.
But the three-judge panel concluded there was enough evidence to convince them Brewer’s policy was unconstitutional.
They said the inability to legally drive was an undue hardship on the dreamers — a key requirement in issuing injunctions — because the policy makes it difficult, if not impossible, for them to go to school and exercise their right to work.
Castillo said Campbell’s refusal to issue the injunction as directed requires the appellate judges to intercede, noting it could take months for the next stage of the state’s appeal.
“This petition process is in addition to the nearly two years it has taken to get to this point in the litigation,” he said. “Without an injunction, plaintiffs will remain victims of unconstitutional discrimination” while the state continues its appeals.
The court gave no indication when it will rule.