Immigration activism groups left Valentines at the Governor’s Office on Thursday in response to Gov. Jan Brewer’s denial of driver’s licenses and state identification to deferred action residents and DREAMers.
Living United for Change in Arizona, the group that hosted the demonstration, assists deferred action residents in their efforts to achieve U.S. citizenship or pursue improved quality of life.
In June 2012, President Barack Obama signed a memo that instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA grants lawful residence to applicants brought to the U.S. when they were younger than 16 who have pursued education or military service.
Despite the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s assurance that DACA recipients are lawful residents and are able to obtain driver’s licenses and state identification, Brewer will not allow it. Last August, Brewer signed an executive order that prohibited DACA recipients from receiving licenses.
Luis Dominguez, a 26-year-old volunteer for LUCHA, said access to a driver’s license is very important for anyone who wants to obtain a job or safely travel.
“It’s better to have someone be able to drive legally,” Dominguez said. “If you get stopped by the police, how can these people identify themselves?”
Dominguez, a DACA recipient, attended a Summer Bridge program at West campus, but could not afford to continue his education at ASU. He attends Glendale Community College and said he hopes to eventually study engineering at ASU. DACA recipients cannot pay in-state tuition.
“We are trying to make a difference,” he said. “We just want people to be more aware.”
The demonstrators, many of whom were dressed in red, held pink and red balloons and carried Valentines addressed to Brewer. They filed into elevators and rode to the top floor, where Brewer’s office is located. Dominguez helped lead them in chants such as “Let the DREAMers drive!”
“This is a decision that she is making herself,” Dominguez said. “She’s not asking the public. She won’t give a reason.”
This is the third time LUCHA has attempted to reach Brewer, but the group has not been able to elicit a response. In October 2012, LUCHA invited Brewer and members of the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division to a similar demonstration, but both invitations were declined. In December 2012, LUCHA held a demonstration in which they compared Brewer to the Grinch who stole Christmas.
Dominguez said they will not be deterred and will continue to make such efforts.
“We are LUCHA, which means ‘fight’ in Spanish,” he said. “We will keep on fighting.”
Brewer spokesman Matt Benson met the demonstrators and encouraged them to relay their message for the governor through him. Several protestors read letters to the governor and asked her to reconsider her approach to DACA recipients.
In response to Brewer’s August executive order, the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition joined with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and filed a lawsuit against her.
Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, said the ongoing lawsuit was one reason she was participating in the demonstration. An ASU alumna, she represented the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition and delivered a speech at the demonstration.
“Gov. Brewer is singling out and harassing DREAMers,” Matuz said. “She’s out of touch, and she’s wasting resources.”
Psychology doctoral student German Cadeñas said Brewer is targeting DREAMers so she can sustain her political power.
“She’s choosing to discriminate against a segment of the population,” Cadeñas said. “She’s impacting thousands of people’s lives.”
Cadeñas was accepted into his doctoral program as an illegal immigrant but has since gained permanent residence. He is one of the founders of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition.
“We were hoping to make a strong statement and we knew that we were taking a risk,” Cadeñas said. “That was really empowering to see we weren’t the only ones being discriminated against.”
Also present at the demonstration were members of the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, which advocates for gay rights as well as immigration reform.
Molecular bioscience senior Steven Montoya said gay rights are ignored in the issue of illegal immigration.
“I am here for two reasons,” Montoya said. “One, to advocate for marriage equality and two, to oppose Jan Brewer’s decision.”
Currently, illegal immigrants are not able to have civil unions. Even if their partner is a U.S. citizen, they do not have a path to citizenship.
The demonstration ended with every participant releasing a balloon into the air that was tied to a paper replica of an Arizona driver’s license.
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