Arizona must keep issuing driver's licenses to 'Dreamers,' judge rules

Arizona must keep issuing driver's licenses to 'Dreamers,' judge rules
Dulce Matuz celebrates with others at the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix in December 2014 after a Supreme Court ruling that allowed young immigrants to acquire driver's licenses. (Nick Oza / Arizona Republic)

A federal judge granted a permanent injunction Thursday affirming the ability of young immigrants protected from deportation to obtain an Arizona driver's license and declared they had won their case.

U.S. District Judge David Campbell's ruling came one month after the so-called Dreamers began getting driver's licenses in Arizona for the first time. He had issued a preliminary injunction in December.


On Thursday, Campbell issued a summary judgment in favor of the young immigrants, who are protected from deportation by President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. 

"The court finds that the denial of driver's licenses has caused plaintiffs irreparable harm," he wrote. He barred Arizona from refusing to accept documents issued under DACA  as proof of authorization to be in the U.S.

Arizona was one of the last states where officials refused to issue driver's licenses to Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children but allowed to remain under the Obama administration program, instituted in 2012.

Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, waged a lengthy legal battle against the program.

Courts ruled against Arizona on several occasions and cleared the way for licenses to be issued starting Dec. 22. Campbell had issued the preliminary injunction four days earlier.

The president's policy applies to people younger than 30 who came to the U.S. before turning 16, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, are enrolled in or have graduated from a high school or equivalent program, or have served in the military.

In the nation's most visible challenge to the deferred action program, Brewer issued an executive order in August 2012 directing state agencies to deny driver's licenses and other public benefits to immigrants who get work authorization under the Obama policy.

Her attorneys argued that the decision grew out of liability concerns and the desire to reduce the risk of the licenses being used to improperly access public benefits.

Young immigrants said the policy made it difficult or impossible for them to get essential things done, such as going to school, work or the store.

Campbell agreed. Plaintiffs "have been unable to pursue new jobs or develop business opportunities because of their inability to drive," he wrote.

Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who succeeded Brewer on Jan. 5, said the governor was reviewing the ruling.