High Court Clears The Way For DREAMers To Drive

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 2:53pm
Arizona Motor Vehicle Division

The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for young immigrants known as DREAMers to get driver’s licenses in the coming days. Arizona was one of two states that denied licenses to this category of immigrants.

This case has been pending since 2012, when the Obama administration granted young immigrants brought to this country illegally as children the chance to avoid deportation and get work permits.

Governor Jan Brewer responded with an executive order, denying these young people driver’s licenses.

A lawsuit ensued and ultimately the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the state to stop denying these immigrants licenses.

Arizona tried to stay the order, but on Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that request.

Among those celebrating the decision was Dulce Matuz, a co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, which is a plaintiff in the case.

“We are overjoyed,” Matuz said. “Having a driver’s licenses is a basic fundamental right and necessity.”

Victoria Lopez of the ACLU of Arizona, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, said she expected the state to begin issuing licenses in a matter of days.

The case is seen as a challenge to President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive action, known Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Now 25 states are challenging the president’s latest announcement, which would offer a similar reprieve from deportation and work permits to a broader category of unauthorized immigrants.

The legal fight in the driver’s license case, however, isn’t necessarily over. Arizona may issue licenses now, but still appeal the case for U.S. Supreme Court review. Wednesday’s ruling indicated three justices were sympathetic to the state.

This two-year lawsuit has been full of twists and turns.

Because of that, 21-year-old Carla Chavarria, who received a work permit under the Obama program, said she was only cautiously optimistic about Wednesday’s news.

“I don’t think I will be able to believe it until I have the license in my hand,” said Chavarria, who currently uses public transportation to get around Phoenix. “But I’m excited, this is a big win for our community.”

Chavarria said she plans to buy a car if she can get a license.