Dreamers Drivers Licenses

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The United States Supreme Court denied a request by Governor Jan Brewer to stay an appeals court ruling that allowed young, illegal immigrants with deferred deportation to get drivers licenses. Dan Pochoda, senior counsel for the Arizona ACLU, will discuss the case.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," the U.S. Supreme Court clears the way for Dreamers to get driver's licenses. We'll hear why the flu season could be especially bad this year. And we'll look back on the life of the late Phoenix Mayor John Driggs, next on "Arizona Horizon."

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. The U.S. Supreme Court today denied a request by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to block an appeals court ruling that allows young illegal immigrants with deferred deportation to get driver's licenses. That means Dreamers could be getting licenses within days. Here to tell us more is Dan Pachoda, senior counsel with the Arizona ACLU which fought on behalf of the Dreamers. Thank you so much for coming.

Dan Pochoda: Good to be here.

Ted Simons: What exactly did the Supreme Court do today?

Dan Pochoda: The Supreme Court denied the request from the state, from the governor to hold off on what was a very strong 9th Circuit opinion. That found that the governor's actions were unconstitutional and illegal discriminatory against the Dreamers, and it was based on the animus towards the Dreamers and not any legitimate governmental objective, and said it cannot stand and order they would be given their licenses as this has occurred throughout this country.

Ted Simons: But the case still has to go back to the ninth, correct?

Dan Pochoda: No it already has. The 9th circuit did not waste any time today. It went back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today. It's already set out, as a mandamus - it's mandate to the District Court and we expect within a matter of days the District Court will enter as required the order that no long permits the state of Arizona to deny these licenses in this discriminatory manner.

Ted Simons: When will ADot start to send out applications or accept applications?

Dan Pochoda: Hopefully they won't use stalling techniques, the law is clear that they have to follow the federal courts, any state agency. I would hope within this calendar year that for sure the licenses would begin to flow to folks who have waited much too long for that to occur.

Ted Simons: Those kids would still have to pass written and driving tests.

Dan Pochoda: Oh sure, they don't get anything special but they will be treated as any other applicant for a driver's license and not automatically excluded as has been the case.

Ted Simons: How many young people are affected by the scenario?

Dan Pochoda: I think about 25,000 recipients in the state at the moment.

Ted Simons: In the course of this, we heard that originally the Governor's actions had dealt with these Dreamers. When the Court said that's discriminatory because you weren't impacting any other deferred folks, she went ahead and tried to include them as well as, and did to a certain extent. Are they included in the rule?

Dan Pochoda: They are not automatically included. We certainly believe the reasoning would apply to that group, and any reasonable official, state executive would understand the world illegal means unconstitutional, and in this case recognize, for the same reasons they were found to have illegally deny denied driver's licenses to recipients, they were similarly illegally denying them to others. Which they only did as a matter of spite in order to try and win this lawsuit. They changed their policy in the middle of a lawsuit after years of granting close to 50,000 licenses to other people with other deferred action status.

Ted Simons: Sounds like the governor's attorneys are acting as if they want to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court. Your thoughts?

Dan Pochoda: Again, you would think at some point the executive of our State would know what illegal and unconstitutional means and not continue to waste taxpayer money on these type was lawsuits. The anti-immigrant animus as was found by the 9th Circuit here, as we know pervades much activity in this state, including SB1070. Has prevailed over concerns about legality. They appear to be continuing this path of trying to reverse what has been a very well-reasoned and clear opinion and consistent with 48 other states in the United States, these folks that deserve and should be getting driver's licenses.

Ted Simons: Just Nebraska and Arizona

Dan Pochoda: Just Nebraska and Arizona are still outliers. Nebraska is still under litigation.

Ted Simons: As far as the High Court, what it did today, any indication of why they acted? Was it relatively quick and down and dirty and over with?

Dan Pochoda: Well, it was down and dirty, in that they didn't give any reasons. But obviously if they were considering taking this case on, and the Court takes many fewer cases than are sought for review by the Supreme Court, if they were considering taking it on, you would have expected they would have granted the stay. They would not be looking to reverse two years down the road from now when getting thousands of people have driver's licenses pursuant to the law, that they would reverse that. Certainly it is the strong indication that any further attempts would be futile, but I wouldn't put it past this particular administration to continue the battle.

Ted Simons: You bring that up, and that's one of the governors -- one of the attorneys for the Governor, their argument is that it's premature to issue these licenses in case it gets to the Supreme Court and in case the whole thing is turned over.

Dan Pochoda: That's turning the argument on its head. In fact, it's been found at every level that the denial of the licenses violate fundamental rights of equal protection. They are treating Dreamers, because of animus from the Executive Branch, differently than others with deferred action status. And both district courts stated that the 9th circuit in a very strong unanimous opinion stated that. There's no reason to stay something which is clearly illegal and unconstitutional. You would think that would in fact impact policy in this state. Unfortunately, too often it has not.

Ted Simons: And the Governor's office, the attorneys also argued that an informal fed policy, a policy from the federal branch, from the Executive Branch, should not trump state law, didn't seem to fly.

Dan Pochoda: Well, because it's wrong. This was not an informal federal policy, it was an executive action. Congress has allowed such actions and indeed authorized such actions in the past. There are many similar actions. Many of the deferred actions, categories are based on executive action, and driver's licenses have been granted in those cases even by Arizona. This was an attempt to dredge up any argument, whether it had any merit or not, by those defending the state in this case. The Court saw through those flimsy excuses, irrational excuses is what the Court said without and legitimacy governmental objectives, and denied their ability to continue this court of action.

Ted Simons: Three of the Supreme Court justices would have kept the stay and sounds like might have even accepted the case further down the line.

Dan Pochoda: Well, 6-3 is a pretty good margin for the Supreme Court these days. You need four to take the case. If there was a fourth person one would have expected that person would have also granted the stay.

Ted Simons: Okay. What's next in all this as far the dreamers are concerned, as far as everyone is concerned?

Dan Pochoda: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals very quickly, indeed today, the same day as the Supreme Court opinion, put out this mandate to the district court, in fact enter this order, the preliminary injunction that bars the state from continuing this illegal course of action and start granting licenses finally to folks that deserved them starting two years ago.

Ted Simons: Basically get the tests done and get the driver's licenses issued?

Dan Pochoda: Start your engines.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Dan Pochoda: Thank you.
 

Dan Pochoda:Senior Counsel, Arizona ACLU;

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