Media Contact

ACLU of Arizona,
Isabel Alegria, ACLU national 415-343-0785, 646-438-4146,
Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center, 213-400-7822,

September 17, 2013


En Español

PHOENIX – A coalition of immigrant and civil rights organizations today criticized a new Arizona Motor Vehicle Division policy ending the practice of issuing drivers’ licenses to certain immigrants who receive federal authorization to live and work in the United States.

"This is a vindictive policy change that is motivated by politics, and Brewer’s desire to get out from under a lawsuit," said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona.  “It only reflects her continuing animus toward DREAMers and her irrational desire to punish even more lawfully present immigrants, including abused women and children.”

The state announced today that it will end its well-established practice of issuing licenses to all immigrants granted “deferred action” by the federal government, which allows them to remain in the country for a certain period without the threat of deportation, and makes them eligible for  work permits and Social Security Numbers.  Over the past eight years, the state of Arizona has issued licenses and ID cards nearly 40,000 times to noncitizens with work permits, according to news reports.  In August of 2012, the Governor issued an order specifically denying licenses to young immigrants known as DREAMers , who are granted permission to live and work here under one federal deferred action program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  Now, she is extending the policy to include other immigrants granted deferred action status.

“Governor Brewer can try to put lipstick on this pig, but it’s still a pig,” said Jenny Chang Newell, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.   “Arizona’s policy of denying licenses to DREAMers is still unconstitutional, even if the state has decided to apply it to yet more immigrants who have federal permission to live and work here.  Rather than excluding more hard-working immigrants, Arizona should join the rest of the country in finding long-term solutions that will help them achieve the American dream.”

The policy change comes on the heels of a federal district court decision in May in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center, the Mexican American Legal and Educational Fund, MALDEF and the ACLU of Arizona. The decision found that Governor Brewer’s August 2012 order denying DREAMers licenses was discriminatory.   Among those who will now be denied licenses are immigrants who have been permitted by the federal government to remain in the country for humanitarian reasons, including certain survivors of domestic violence and victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

“In her zealousness, Governor Brewer has made a policy change that isn’t just anti-immigrant, it’s also anti-woman,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney of the National Immigration Law Center. “Now, survivors of domestic violence who are in the process of adjusting their status will be unable to obtain the licenses they need. This sort of policy change only demonstrates that Arizona’s politicians care more about scoring political points than about ensuring the safety of their residents.”

Although  in its May decision, the court declined to enjoin the policy affecting DREAMers, it concluded that the policy unfairly singled out these young immigrants, while allowing other similar groups of immigrants to obtain licenses, including all other immigrants granted deferred action and a work permit.  Rather than ending the practice of excluding the young immigrants, Brewer decided to extend the ban to other immigrants who’ve been granted driver’s licenses for years.