PHOENIX (AP) -- Lawyers for the state told a federal appeals court Tuesday that Arizona will stop issuing driver's licenses to all people who receive deportation deferrals from the federal government, not just young immigrants given work permits under a policy championed by President Barack Obama.
The policy change revealed in a court filing comes months after a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Arizona's policy of denying licenses to young people given deferrals was likely discriminatory. That's because some immigrants with similarly issued work permits get driver's licenses yet those young immigrants protected under Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can't. They are often called "dreamers," a reference to the DREAM Act, a proposed law that would give legal status to people illegally brought to the U.S. as children.
Immigrant rights activists sued Arizona over the policy. Judge David Campbell in May rejected their argument that the policy was unconstitutional but noted the probable discrimination. Campbell refused to block the policy, and activists appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said Gov. Jan Brewer was making the policy change just to get out from under the lawsuit, to the detriment of other immigrants given work permits under deferred action policies. They include human trafficking victims, widows and victims of domestic violence.
"The judge issued a ruling months ago saying they were singling out dreamers, and this is her response," said the ACLU's Alessandra Soler. "I think it's shameful, I think it's vindictive, I think it's politically motivated."
Brewer's spokesman, Andrew Wilder, called the action a "policy change."
"Recipients of regular deferred action and deferred enforced departure, similar to DACA, cannot demonstrate authorized presence under federal law," Wilder wrote in an email.
Soler said, "Our position is the policy is still discriminatory, it's still unlawful and we'll be arguing that in court."
The controversy over Arizona's driver's license policy started after the Obama administration took administrative steps to shield thousands of young immigrants from deportation last summer. Applicants for the deferment program must have come to the U.S. before they turned 16, be younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, be in school or have graduated from high school or a GED program, or have served in the military. They also were allowed to apply for a two-year renewable work permit.
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