Arizona is at It Again: Denies Drivers’ Licenses to Certain Immigrants

In June 2012, President Obama signed the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. This allows the children of undocumented immigrants to the United States who would otherwise be subject to deportation to apply for permission to remain in the United States if they meet certain criteria.

This “deferred action” allows them to remain in the country without fear of deportation for up to two years and to gain employment authorizations. The authorization would be reviewed for renewal at the end of each two year period. Deferred action does not bestow legal status. It is a tool of prosecutorial discretion in determining which cases to pursue for deportation.

An estimated 1.7 million people who immigrated as children may be eligible for the program. As of March 2013, more than 470,000 applications had been received. Of those reviewed, a little more than 268,000 had been approved.

For those of driving age (eligibility requires that they had to be 30 years old or younger as of June 15, 2012), this reprieve gave access to things like driverís licenses. Currently only 10 states and the District of Columbia allow undocumented immigrants to get a driverís license.† Most states, however, are allowing those eligible under DACA to be issued one.

Then thereís Arizona.

In August of 2012, in response to the Presidentís executive order, Governor Brewer issued her own executive order instructing state agencies (including the Motor Vehicle Department) from issuing any state IDs to those with employment authorizations who qualified for deferred action.† The MVD could still issue licenses to undocumented persons with employment authorizations who qualified under other programs Ė just not those who qualified under DACA.

Arizona has become the poster child for anti-immigrant policies the past several years. Itís most notorious effort was AB 1070, signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer in 2010. The law made it legal for law enforcement to racially profile in order to determine the legal status of individuals in a variety of situations. The United States Supreme Court struck down all but one of the provisions, allowing inquiry into immigration status during law enforcement stops.

Arizonaís anti-immigrant laws have been the subject of numerous lawsuits from rights groups and the Department of Justice.† In response to Brewerís executive order, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in November 2012 on behalf of Arizona Dream Act Coalition and five additional plaintiffs, claiming the order violated the Supremacy Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

The judge has hinted that the plaintiffsí claims would likely prevail.

In response, in August of this year, Jan Brewer expanded her executive order,†stating that no undocumented person eligible for deferred action shall be allowed to obtain a driverís license. Other categories of deferred action include those without sponsors, witnesses of crimes, domestic abuse victims, and other humanitarian reasons. Arizonaís reasoning for the expansion is that these individuals cannot justify authorized presence in the United States under federal law. Even though, technically, federal law is authorizing their presence.

In other words, now everyone under deferred action is prohibited from receiving a driver’s license.

The idea of giving undocumented immigrants a driverís license is one that is hotly debated. It took my home state of California over a decade of efforts to become the tenth state to do so Ė just this week. The law will allow undocumented workers to get a driverís license that specifically states it is only for driving and is not to be used for any other purpose (such as identification verifying legal status). These individuals still have to take and pass the driving test like everyone else and the license represents that they did just that. It also allows them to drive to work, make money and put it back into the economy.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the state cannot claim the policies have any valid justification or rational basis. They are seeking to have the executive order and policies deemed unlawful and invalid. It remains to be seen if Arizonaís legal maneuver will work or if it will continue to be seen as a direct attempt to thumb its nose at the Presidentís order.


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Margaret Goodman
Margaret G4 years ago

How does it help Arizona to not allow driver's licenses to undocumented people who are domestic abuse victims or witnesses of crimes? Does Arizona not care about finding abusers and criminals?

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Ernest R. people were saying the EXACT same thing when your ancestors arrived in Ellis Island, that we are overpopulated and that there were too many people and that your ancestors wouldn't make "good citizens.' People have been slinging the same xenophobic crap for a long time.

Megan M.
Megan M4 years ago

Boo hoo. Get legal, or get out. I'm sick of it. my great grandmother came through Ellis Island LEGALLY, learned the language, learned the customs and paid her taxes. I have dealt too often with the kind of immigrant that expects things to be handed to him on a silver platter - case in point a person threw a fit in my work because he was told he could not be hired as he knew zero English. Abide by our laws, or go back, plain as that.

Ernest Roth
Ernest R4 years ago

Yes Care, You are "at it again", trying to convince us that we should treat illegal migrants like legitimate citizens.@ Kevin B.".What if your immigrant grandparents came here and were told to "go back where they came from"? If they had snuck into the country illegally, they should have been sent back where they came from and they would have had NO complaint coming. Then most of their progeny would possibly be somewhere else. And your point would be? "Therein lies the problem, Marilyn, we no longer have an Ellis Island welcoming immigrants to our country." No Kevin, that isn't the problem. We have more than enough people, including immigrants. The problem is TOO MANY PEOPLE ! It's called overpopulation. Don't you read the news?

David B.
David B4 years ago

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Aurea Walker

The biggest tragedy that is being ignored is WHY are Latinos coming to America? Gee, in Mexico Walmart has caused a huge destruction of the small business owners livelihood, the companies that have business with Mexico do NOT place the local corporate talent for the higher paid jobs. They send americans down there for those jobs, the crappy jobs of course go to the locals.For every dollar that goes into Mexico's economy $50.00 comes back to the states. We can thank Mexico for very cheap labor in American agriculture, without the slave work the Latinos do, a head of lettuce would cost $5,00 and tomatoes the same! How the USA corporations rape, pillage and plunder central and South America is worse! By the way Mexico does have socialized medicine, no doctor can get his degree without doing one year of mandatory "social services" work. And the ultimate joke is on the British wankers who came to America and destroyed most of the Native American's. KARMA Now that the WASP's are seeing Latinos getting not only financially stronger but will also become a MAJORITY not a minority, the boys in power are becoming very afraid. Goodness forbid first a man of color and maybe next a woman (I hope) and maybe not far down the road, "GASP" a Latino. Parting shot, why not ask Romney how good Mexico was to his father and polygamous grandfather? Or for that matter all his cousins and other family members? Mexico did not throw them out.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Lol, BJ, was founded by L. Brent Bozell III on June 16, 1998, under the name Conservative News Service and the domain name It is just another right wing hack organization, bought and paid for by the rich and corporate America. It is just another part of the right wing lie machine and echo chamber.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

No D.H., the United States "used to" have a liberal immigration policy, that is the only reason most of us ever got here.

B J.
BJ J4 years ago

Go to another country and stay longer than allowed and see what happens. There are US citizens (& so many other US problems) that are in need of all degrees of "fixing, why don't we start with that? If people from other countries want to come to US and become CITIZENS, great, otherwise they should not be allowed US privileges and benefits indefinitely.

In FY 2012, ICE says it removed 409,849 illegal aliens. Fifty-five percent of them (or 225,390) were convicted criminal aliens, the largest number of criminal aliens removed in agency history, ICE said. is not funded by the government like NPR. is not funded by the government like PBS.

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