NOVEMBER 26, 2014

Federal Appeals Court rejects Arizona’s request to rehear driver’s license case

Decision paves the way for young immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses
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SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, November 24, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected a request to reconsider its earlier ruling that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s denial of driver’s licenses to certain young immigrants is unconstitutional. The move validates a decision issued in July ordering the state to stop depriving those young immigrants who came to this country as children from obtaining a driver’s license. The group of young people—who have permission from the federal government to live and work in the U.S.—are seriously impaired by their inability to get drivers’ licenses, the court said earlier this year.

The ruling is the latest legal victory in a civil rights coalition’s lawsuit against a policy that prevented Arizona youth granted work authorization through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from applying for state-issued identification.

For more than two years, the plaintiffs in this case have fought for the right to earn driver’s licenses.

In August of 2012, Brewer issued an order specifically denying licenses to young immigrants who are granted permission to live and work in the U.S. under the DACA program. The National Immigration Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the ACLU of Arizona challenged the executive order and related policies in court, alleging that the ban violates DACA recipients’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law as well as the principles of federal supremacy in the area of immigration policy and law.

After a federal district court held, in May 2013, that Arizona’s policy likely constituted unconstitutional discrimination, the state sought to expand its denial of licenses to additional categories of immigrants, unsuccessfully.

In July 2014, the Ninth Circuit determined that Brewer’s policy was likely to be found unconstitutional and approved a preliminary injunction to allow immigrant youth to apply for licenses. This injunction was placed on hold after Arizona requested rehearing en banc, which would have provided the state an opportunity to make their arguments in front of an 11-judge panel.

Before denying Arizona’s rehearing request, the court had invited the United States to share its views on whether the case should be reheard. In September, the United States filed a brief with the court agreeing that Arizona’s policy is unconstitutional and opposing its rehearing request.

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