DACA/DREAM Frontera Fund News

The Long Road To Victory for DACA DREAMers in Arizona Reflects Courage and Resilience

Karina Ruiz, The ADAC Executive Director, gives a press conference on the end of The ADAC vs Jan Brewer- Arizona
Karina Ruiz, The ADAC Executive Director, gives a press conference on the end of The ADAC vs Jan Brewer- Arizona
Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

After 6 years of fighting and 5 years of active litigation, Arizona Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in Arizona finally asserted their right to drive, when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) denied the state a hearing on Monday, March the 19th, 2018 leaving the lower court decision in place.

DREAMers have the right to get a driver’s license in Arizona and the State’s attempt to block it was unconstitutional.

The saga started when the DACA program was created. On August 15th, 2012, when immigrant youth celebrated the announcement of the process to submit applications for the federal program, the then governor Jan Brewer issued an executive order instructing MVD not to process driver’s licenses applications for DACA even though deferred action recipients were granted the opportunity.

It was more than the right to drive. The document is also an ID tool: along with blocking the right to drive, DACA recipients would not have the right to have ID, making them vulnerable and closing job opportunities for them.

That executive order was aimed to close to 30,000 young individuals who have lived in the United States (and Arizona) most of their lives.

When it was obvious that the EO was singling out a specific Deferred Action category, Jan Brewer extended her odious EO to include other categories of Deferred Action such as victims of domestic violence and abuse, on September 2013.

Jan Brewer anti-constitutional cruelty had no limits.

The fight for Arizona DACA right to drive took the form of a class action lawsuit led by a group of courageous individual plaintiff and me, the only non-DACA-DREAMer in the plaintiff class.

Since I was highly involved with The ADAC at that moment, my e-mails were taken by the parties during the discovery phase.

The legal fight was led by some of the top lawyers in the country with National Immigration Law Center (NILC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU of AZ) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

As the case progressed court after court asserted the right of DACA-DREAMers’ access to a driver’s licenses since the argument that DACA recipients have not a legal presence in Arizona failed to persuade federal appellate judges.  The judges determined that Arizona cannot decide for itself who is legally entitled to be in the country.

Thankfully, the courts permanently blocked Jan Brewer executive order, opening the opportunity for DACA-DREAMers to obtain a driver’s license or a state ID since 2015.

Even though the courts were not on their side, the legal battle was prolonged by Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich, wasting taxpayers’ dollars in an ethically, morally and unconstitutionally wrong fight.

Pure political posturing.

Monday Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision not to hear Arizona’s arguments runs in parallel with the Trump administration efforts to end DACA.

There are two additional cases related to this saga. First the lawsuit against Maricopa County Community Colleges for offering in-state-tuition to Deferred Action recipients, and second, the lawsuit supporting other Deferred Action recipients, among them victims of crimes, who also had been denied driver’s licenses.

If The ADAC vs Jan Brewer-Arizona tells us something, the road may be long but at the end, resilient and courageous DACA-DREAMers will be victorious.