Thousands of young immigrants protected from deportation under a federal program will begin lining up for Arizona driver’s licenses Monday after a federal judge removed the final barrier preventing them from applying for the documents.
A preliminary injunction issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge David Campbell bars the state from enforcing Gov. Jan Brewer’s directive to deny driver’s licenses to more than 20,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally.
The injunction takes effect Monday to give state officials time to let Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients know that their federal employment authorization cards are now acceptable proof of eligibility for a driver's license.
The so-called Dreamers, who have been shielded from deportation since 2012 under the Obama administration’s DACA program, are authorized to stay and work in the country legally. But in Arizona and Nebraska they have been denied driver’s licenses.
Campbell effectively ended the ban in Arizona when he ordered the state to ignore the governor's directive against driver's license applications for DACA immigrants.
That ruling came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 to turn down an emergency appeal from Brewer, who sought to block an order from an appellate court that also found the state had no grounds to deny license applications to the Dreamers.
However, Brewer still isn't ready to take no for an answer, greeting Campbell’s injunction with a statement of her own in which she promised to carry the fight back to the Supreme Court.
"It is important to remember that courts have yet to consider the full merits of the case, and I believe that Arizona will ultimately prevail," said Brewer, who leaves office next month. "Consequently, I have instructed my legal team to move forward in pursuing a full review of this matter before the United States Supreme Court as soon as possible."
Brewer has said that rules governing who is eligible for driver's licenses is a state issue and not one that should be decided by the federal government.
"It is outrageous that Arizona is being forced to ignore long-standing state law and comply with a flawed federal court mandate that requires the state, at least temporarily, to issue driver's licenses to individuals whose presence is in violation of federal law, as established by the United States Congress," she said.
"At stake in this case are the fundamental issues of constitutional law and state sovereignty. Arizona has the constitutional right and authority to enforce state statute. This right must be protected. It must be defended. And as long as I am governor, I will do exactly that."
But the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals didn't buy that argument, nor another in which Brewer’s lawyers claimed the governor was trying to reduce the risk that licenses could be used to improperly gain access to public benefits.
Instead, the court said there was no legitimate state interest in treating the Dreamers differently from other noncitizens, such as green-card holders, who can drive legally. The court said Brewer's actions were intended to express hostility toward the immigrants and toward U.S. government policy protecting them.
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