Arizona DREAMers still unable to receive driver's licenses

Arizona's DMV implemented the ban on driver's licenses for DREAMers and other immigrant groups. The ban is extended to immigrants who have been granted work permits and who are protected by the deferred action program signed by the President last year. (Photo by Hector Salas Almeida) Arizona's DMV implemented the ban on driver's licenses for DREAMers and other immigrant groups. The ban is extended to immigrants who have been granted work permits and who are protected by the deferred action program signed by the President last year. (Photo by Hector Salas Almeida)

Thousands of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients will continue to lack proper identification after the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles implemented Gov. Jan Brewer's 2012 ban on driver's licenses for DREAMers and other immigrant groups on Sept. 18.

Korina Iribe Romo, a DREAMer and DACA recipient who has applied for jobs in Avondale and has been denied employment, because she lacks a state-issued driver's license that is required for those positions, said it is very difficult not being able to drive a car.

“You need to be able to drive wherever you go,” she said. “You have to use it for everything.”

Iribe Romo, who is paying in-state tuition at Estrella Mountain Community College, said the ban has affected her in school and at work because public transportation is not as available in Avondale as it is in cities like Tempe and Phoenix.

Brewer extended the ban to include DREAMers who are now protected under the memo signed by President Barack Obama in July 2012.

In the 2012 executive order, Brewer said DACA recipients are not lawfully present in the country and should not be conferred any additional public benefits.

According to Arizona Public Media, some immigrants with worker permits are able to obtain a driver's license, but those who are granted work permits through DACA are not eligible for them.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, the Arizona Civil Liberty Union and other organizations filed a lawsuit against Brewer calling the actions discriminatory, according to court documents.

Before the act passed, the DMV issued licenses to all who had sufficient evidence proving they were living in the U.S. legally, according to court documents.

Diego Moya, a member of ASU College Republicans, said the issue is not black or white but more shades of gray.

Moya said that the ban might make finding jobs and going to school difficult for DREAMers, but there is more to the issue.

“We have to prove ourselves to go in the direction we want to go,” he said.

Moya said it is a difficult subject for him, because he has friends who are DREAMers and could be affected by the ban.

According to the Morrison Institute at Arizona State, there are between 50,000 and 54,000 potential DREAMers in the state.

In an article published by the Arizona Republic in November 2012, about 40,000 licenses and ID cards were issued over the past eight years to immigrants with work permits. After Brewer issued the ban in August 2012, the state has issued 1,000 licenses to immigrants with worker permits but denied it to those who obtained the work permit under the act signed by Obama.

Counseling psychology graduate student German Cadenas said Brewer's actions are rooted in racism.

“As a Latino and as a member of a minority group, I feel discriminated against,” he said.

Cadenas is one of the thousands of DREAMers in the state who have worked to change their migration status. He is now a legal resident after a family member petitioned to have his status changed.

The politics surrounding Brewer's decision to issue the ban come amid her reelection campaign for next year and criticism surrounding her recent move to expand medical coverage for the poor.

“(Brewer's) stance is so harsh because it is a good political move at the moment,” Cadenas said. “It will get her a lot of votes within her party.”

The Arizona Board of Regents has been working with ASU's student governments to help DREAMers pay less for their tuition, Cadenas said.

The idea is that the students will pay halfway between in-state and out-of-state tuition to help make college more affordable, he added.

Casey Clowes, vice president of policy for the Tempe Undergraduate Student Government, said higher education is something the organization encourages and supports.

“Student government is in favor of providing educational opportunities to those who wish to go to college,” she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a press release that Brewer's actions only reflected her desire to punish those immigrants who are are now lawfully in the state.

Romo is organizing a demonstration with the Arizona Dream Act Coalition in front of the governor's office on Oct. 17 to show top state officials the people affected by this decision.

Reach the reporter at hsalasal@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @hsalasalmeida


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