July 7 A U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday that
Arizona cannot deny driving licenses to some immigrants who came
to the United States without permission as children.
The verdict by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
reversed a district court ruling in a challenge to an Arizona
policy covering those who benefited from a federal program that
let certain immigrants stay in the country.
Recipients of the program, known as "Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals" or DACA, were prohibited in Arizona from
using employment documents to prove they were in the United
States legally and obtain driving licenses.
The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit said in its ruling
that "it could identify no legitimate state interest that was
rationally related to defendants' decision to treat DACA
recipients disparately from other noncitizens."
After the DACA program took effect in August 2012 it was
described by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer as an "Obama amnesty
plan." In an executive order, her office directed state agencies
to prevent recipients from becoming eligible for any state
identification, including driving licenses.
The challenge to the Arizona policy was brought by an
immigrant rights group and five DACA beneficiaries living in the
state who were denied licenses.
The 9th Circuit noted that more than 87 percent of Arizonans
commute to work by car.
"The link between driver's licenses and the ability to work
is heightened by the fact that some jobs - including jobs for
which two plaintiffs wished to apply - require driver's licenses
as a condition of hire," the court said.
It said the state's policy appeared intended in part to
express animus toward the recipients of the program, "in part
because of the federal government's policy toward them."
"Such animus, however, is not a legitimate state interest."
To be eligible for DACA, immigrants must have come to the
United States before the age of 16 and have been under 31 as of
June 15, 2012.
Among other requirements, recipients must be enrolled in
school, or have graduated from high school or obtained a GED,
and have no serious criminal offenses on their record.
(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Doina Chiacu)