A panel of three judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today unanimously agreed that young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, also known as DREAMers, absolutely have the right to issue driver's licenses in Arizona, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
The judges sided with the plaintiffs' argument that President Barack Obama's 2012 relief program deferred action for childhood arrivals does grant DREAMers authorized presence in the country under the law. The state has for years said that DACA does not grant lawful presence in the U.S.
In July of last year, the state and immigration rights advocates, such as the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, headed back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for a hearing against a district court judge's injunction that allowed DREAMers to get licenses starting in December 2014.
After years in and out of court, U.S. District Judge David Campbell issued that month a preliminary injunction that immediately allowed roughly 22,000 DREAMers to get licenses. The following month he made his decision permanent: Arizona cannot deny DREAMers driver's licenses.
Since 2012, federal courts continuously ruled against former governor Jan Brewer's executive action, which she announced the same day the DACA program went into effect. The 9th Circuit has even said in the past that the policy is likely unconstitutional.
In Dec. 17, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected a last-minute appeal by the state, and that's when Campbell issued a preliminary injunction. Really, it made no sense to treat them differently from any other non-citizen, such as green card holders. DREAMers began getting licenses five days later.
In February 2015, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich appealed to the 9th Circuit.
Nicholas Espíritu, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, which is one of the plaintiffs in the case, told the Weekly at the time that they wanted the court to know that Arizona's rationale against allowing DREAMers access to licenses had not changed. "They continue to think that they have the right to discriminate against DACA recipients, and continue to justify their desire to discriminate. The Supreme Court has said that Arizona can't discriminate against DREAMers, and we feel the 9th Circuit will continue to hold that."
About today's decision, the center says the state could take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. If not, this pretty much settles this years-long battle.