A coalition of immigrant-rights advocates filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to overturn an order by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that denies driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants who avoided deportation under a new Obama administration policy.
The class-action lawsuit seeks to block an Aug. 15 executive order issued by the governor after the federal government implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows youths who came to the U.S. illegally as children to live and work in this country for renewable periods of two years.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, an immigrant youth-led organization.
“Federal immigration authorities have lifted the shadow of deportation from these bright and hardworking DREAMers, but Arizona insists on pursuing its own immigration policy aimed at keeping them in the dark,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, an ACLU staff attorney. “Rather than deny these young people the ability to drive — an everyday necessity for most people — our leaders should come together to enact long-term solutions that would allow our talented immigrant youth to achieve the American dream.”
The lawsuit alleges that the state has classified young adult immigrants as not having permission to be in the U.S. and asks a federal judge to declare the governor’s executive order unconstitutional because it is in conflict with federal law and denies licenses without valid justification.
“Arizona’s creation of its own immigration classification impermissibly intrudes on the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate immigration,” the lawsuit states.
In June, the Obama administration took steps to block the potential deportation of as many as 800,000 immigrants from the U.S. if they were brought to this country before they turned 16, were younger than 30, had been here for at least five continuous years, had graduated from high school or obtained an equivalency certificate (GED), or had served in the military.
Ms. Brewer’s executive order was aimed ensuring that Arizona state agencies adhere to the intent of state law by denying public benefits to illegal immigrants.
About 11,000 people in Arizona have applied for the deferred-deportation protection under the Obama administration’s policy.
The lawsuit claims that the Arizona policy violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by interfering with federal immigration law, and also violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against certain noncitizens. Arizona’s motor vehicle division implemented Ms. Brewer’s Sept. 18 order.