LOS ANGELES – Arizona must accept proof of work authorization as sufficient documentation from immigrants seeking to obtain driver’s licenses, a federal court ruled this week.
The decision in Valenzuela v. Ducey, a lawsuit filed by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and Ortega Law Firm P.C., blocks Arizona’s Department of Transportation from denying licenses to immigrants with deferred action.
“This decision is a great victory for the courageous individuals who brought this lawsuit to challenge Arizona’s harsh and unnecessary driver’s license policy, and for hundreds of individuals across the state affected by this policy,” said Julia Gomez, staff attorney at MALDEF, who argued a companion motion in the case. “The court’s order ensures that deferred action recipients can finally get on with their lives, and helps remove the hurdles that come from not being able to drive.”
NILC and MALDEF sued Arizona on behalf of several deferred action holders who, despite having received work authorization from the federal government, were denied the opportunity to apply for a driver’s license. Deferred action recipients include survivors of domestic violence and other serious crimes.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell said that the state cannot create a policy that grants driver’s licenses to some deferred action recipients, while denying them to others.
“A driver’s license is about more than a piece of paper,” said Nicholas Espíritu, staff attorney at NILC, who argued the motion for summary judgement. “Our plaintiffs should be treated just like anyone else and have the freedom to live their lives fully in their communities. This order allows them to have the license they need to drive to work and support their families, and it prevents Arizona from engaging in a discriminatory practice.”
Arizona’s discriminatory policy followed an initial attempt to deny licenses to all those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. NILC and MALDEF and others successfully challenged that discriminatory policy in 2012.
Read the court order here.