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03/22/2013

News / Civil rights groups to ask federal judge to prevent AZ from denying driver’s licenses to illegal immigrant youths

Pro-immigrant civil rights groups are expected to ask a District Court judge to enforce a federal measure allowing young illegal immigrants to obtain work permits, social security numbers and driver’s licenses in the state of Arizona before a final verdict is rendered.

Last year, Governor Jan Brewer issued an executive order that barred immigrant youths qualifying under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from obtaining driver’s licenses. Brewer argued that the federal program did not give them lawful status or entitle them to public benefits, but a number of civil rights groups have challenged that interpretation.

“We want the judge to block the governor ... from continuing to discriminate against these students,” Victor Viramontes, National senior counsel for the Mexican American Civil Defense and Educational Fund, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The Obama-backed DACA program was implemented last year by Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security and Brewer’s predecessor as governor. The program grants illegal immigrants that came to the country as youths and meet certain criteria a temporary extension of their legal stay in the United States. It also entitles them to obtain a social security number and a work permit for a renewable period of two years.

Around 40 states plus the District of Columbia agreed with DACA in principle and said they would allow undocumented immigrants qualifying under the program to obtain driver’s licenses. Only Arizona and Nebraska openly disagreed and have so far continued to deny licenses for qualifying immigrants.

Last November, civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against Jan Brewer’s executive order on behalf of five Mexican immigrants qualifying for driver’s licenses under the federal program.

Republican Governor Jan Brewer is a staunch critic of President Obama’s stance on immigration. In 2010, she signed a controversial bill that allowed police to stop anyone they suspected had entered the country illegally. That measure was challenged in a lawsuit, but was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.


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