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Updated Mar 4, 2013 - 1:24 pm

Arizona spars over licenses for young immigrants

PHOENIX — Immigrant rights advocates want Gov. Jan Brewer’s ban on
driver’s licenses for young immigrants who have gotten work permits under a new
Obama administration policy declared unconstitutional.

The groups asked a judge Monday to refuse Brewer’s motion to dismiss their
lawsuit challenging her policy. They said the policy is discriminatory and
violates federal law.

Brewer’s lawyers responded in court documents that the Obama administration
policy isn’t federal law and that those pushing the lawsuit can’t support their
allegation that they can’t keep a job or go to school without a license.

Arizona officials “face potentially serious ramifications if they give
driver’s licenses to a large group of people who might not be entitled to
them,” according to the court filings.

The Obama administration recently took steps to shield as many as 800,000
immigrants from deportation. They also were allowed to apply for a two-year
renewable work permit.

Applicants must have come to the U.S. 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 a GED program, or have served in the
military.

Roughly 80,000 immigrants in Arizona are eligible for deferred status,
according to state estimates.

Brewer’s “political disagreement with the federal government’s discretionary
decision is not a proper justification for denying licenses to individuals
granted deferred action,” lawyers representing the immigrants wrote in their
motion Monday, adding, “the real reason for the challenged policy was the
desire to discriminate against a politically unpopular group.”

The Department of Homeland Security announced last month that those who receive
deferred action from deportation through President Barack Obama’s new
immigration policy are considered to be lawfully present in the U.S.

Immigrant rights advocates filed the lawsuit in November on behalf of five
young-adult immigrants in Arizona who were brought to the United States from
Mexico as children. They were granted deferred deportation protections under the
Obama administration’s policy but were denied licenses in Arizona.

The five immigrants aren’t seeking money damages. They want a judge to bar
Arizona from denying driver’s licenses to immigrants who were granted deferred
deportation status by the federal government. It seeks class-action status that
would let all other young immigrants in Arizona who were granted the
deferred-deportation protection join the lawsuit.

The three groups leading the lawsuit are the National Immigration Law Center,
American Civil Liberties Union and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education
Fund.

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