PHOENIX (AP) — Lawyers challenging Arizona’s denial of driver’s licenses to young immigrants who avoided deportation under an Obama administration policy said Gov. Jan Brewer had discriminatory intent when she crafted the policy.
Immigrant rights advocates for the so-called Dreamers filed a lengthy motion for a summary judgment Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix and are seeking an oral argument in the case.
They said in court filings that the governor’s policy decision reflects an intention to target noncitizens on their immigration status and a rejection of their federally authorized presence. They pointed out that Brewer had referred to the Obama administration policy as “backdoor amnesty” and political pandering.
In separate filings, the governor’s lawyers said her August 2012 policy change was necessary for ensuring that state agencies adhere to the intent of state laws denying public benefits to immigrants living in the country illegally.
The Obama administration in June 2012 took administrative steps to shield thousands of immigrants from deportation. Applicants must have come to the United States before they turned 16, be younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, be in school or have graduated from high school or GED program, or have served in the military. They also were allowed to apply for a two-year renewable work permit.
Brewer issued an executive order in August 2012 directing state agencies to deny driver’s licenses and other public benefits to young immigrants who get work authorization under the program.
In May 2013, U.S. District Judge David Campbell rejected the argument by immigrant-rights advocates who said Brewer’s policy was unconstitutional because it’s trumped by federal law.
But Campbell had said the immigrant-rights advocates are likely to succeed in arguing that the state lets some immigrants with work permits get driver’s licenses but won’t let immigrants protected under Obama’s program have the same benefit.
The state revised the policy late last summer by saying it would stop issuing driver’s licenses to all people who receive deportation deferrals from the federal government, not just young immigrants given protection under Obama’s policy.
The governor’s attorneys argued the policy revision makes the equal-protection arguments made by the immigrants’ lawyers moot, saying the new policy ensures consistency in the treatment of people who have who received deportation deferrals.
But the lawyers seeking to overturn the state’s policy said the police revision was a clear attempt to undermine their equal-protection claim and that, despite the state’s claims, the state is still giving licenses to some people with deferred deportation status, such as certain immigrants who are domestic violence victims.
The governor’s attorneys said the driver’s license policy grew out of concerns over the liability of giving licenses to people who aren’t authorized to be in the country and reducing the risk of licenses being used to improperly access public benefits.
The lawsuit alleges the state has in effect classified young-adult immigrants as not having permission to be in the country and that Brewer’s policy is unconstitutional because it’s trumped by federal law.
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