Since President Obama issued an administrative directive allowing some undocumented young immigrants to temporarily remain in the country, states have adopted policies to ensure they have equal work opportunity. But on Thursday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) reiterated her opposition to granting driver licenses to the eligible immigrants and compared them to children or people with a record of driving under the influence.
Speaking on Fox News, Brewer suggested that she would never issue licenses to undocumented immigrants because that’s what state law says, despite the fact that it was her executive order that interpreted state law to mean that:
BILL HEMMER (HOST): In June the White House announced a new plan if you were here in the U.S. before the age of 16, and you are younger than the age of 31, and you’ve been here at least five years, you can stay. That is the broad outline of his proposal passed over the summer. What you’re arguing is that the law of the land in Arizona if you’re illegal you don’t get the same rights as those who are legal, correct?
BREWER: The state is the one who licenses the people to be able to drive, it’s not the federal government. And we don’t license kids under 16. We don’t license DUI drivers. And our laws are very clear and I took an oath to uphold that.
Even if Brewer is right about what the law says, laws can be changed — in fact, two states have passed legislation allowing all undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, with Illinois set to be a third. These laws have been passed for reasons of public safety; lawmakers believe that unlicensed adult immigrants are likely to drive anyway because they need to get to work, risking increased accidents and higher insurance costs. Public safety concerns, of course, run the opposite direction with children and serial drunk drivers, who cannot ever be trusted to drive safely and hence must be kept off the road.
A group of civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit on Thursday arguing that Brewer’s executive order instructing the state to refuse driver’s licenses to individuals granted deferred action is unconstitutional, as it “denies driver’s licenses to a specific class of immigrant youth despite their being authorized to live and work in the United States.”