The ACLU and its partners today filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of young immigrants who came to the United States as children -- known as "Dreamers" -- to challenge Arizona's latest attempt to makes the lives of immigrants in the state unlivable.
Our lawsuit -- the first case in our new initiative to fight anti-immigrant laws at the state level -- seeks to block Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's outrageous executive order, which denies driver's licenses to Dreamers who the federal government has authorized to live and work in the country.
Our plaintiffs are the beneficiaries of the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows certain undocumented youths to remain here without fear of deportation for a renewable period of two years and to apply for a work permit and Social Security number. As I've written previously, the program throws a crucial lifeline to our country's talented and hardworking immigrant youths, sparing them from the nightmare that they will be deported from the only home they've ever known, and enabling them to become contributing members of American society.
Take Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM ACT Coalition, a youth-led immigrants' rights organization that is also a plaintiff in our case. In the words of Time magazine, which named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, Dulce "represents the finest of her generation, putting herself through college partly via scholarships and graduating with an electrical-engineering degree." Dulce has "[fought] for the right to contribute to the country she has called home since she was young." But because of Brewer's order, she, too, cannot get a driver's license.
There are an estimated 1.76 million young people like Dulce in the U.S., including 80,000 in Arizona. Arizona's ban makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Dreamers to accomplish the basic tasks of everyday life, such as getting and keeping a job; going to the grocery store; attending church; taking kids to school, soccer practice, doctors appointments and piano lessons.
By choosing once again to pursue its own draconian anti-immigrant policies, Arizona is flouting the federal government's recognition, shared by a strong majority of the American public, that our talented immigrant youth should be welcomed, and not shunned. As the president acknowledged the day DACA was announced, "[t]hese are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."
Rather than denying them the ability to drive, our leaders should come together to enact long-term solutions that would allow these young people the opportunity to achieve the American dream. And while the DACA program provides a lifeline for many Dreamers, it does not lift the need for Congress to enact federal legislation, such as the DREAM Act, that would provide a path to citizenship for young people who came here as children and graduated from high school. As Congress renews its attention to comprehensive immigration reform, it is essential that any new legislation create permanent solutions for Dreamers like Dulce, and thousands of other immigrant youths, so that they can continue contributing to our country's future.