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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Justices Let Stand a Ruling on Driver’s Licenses for Young Arizona Immigrants

New York Times
By Adam Liptak
December 17, 2014

The Supreme Court on Wednesday let stand a ruling requiring Arizona to issue driver’s licenses to young immigrants spared from deportation by President Obama.
The court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons, but it nonetheless represented the justices’ first encounter with the Obama administration’s recent efforts to provide relief to immigrants who are in the United States unlawfully. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented, also without giving reasons.
The order on Wednesday did not concern Mr. Obama’s most recent move, which makes some four million unauthorized immigrants who are the parents of United States citizens eligible for a new legal status that defers their deportations and allows them to work legally. Instead, the case before the court arose from a 2012 initiative that deferred the deportation of young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
But Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona told the justices in an emergency application that the two programs were of a piece, with both stemming from “the executive branch’s continued expansion of deferred action and refusal to enforce federal immigration law.”
The underlying question in the case, Brewer v. Arizona Dream Act Coalition, No. 14A625, was whether Arizona was entitled to respond to the 2012 federal initiative by denying driver’s licenses to the young immigrants in the second group, sometimes called Dreamers.
In July, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, put the state’s new driver’s license policy on hold while the case proceeded, saying the policy most likely violated equal protection principles. The state grants driver’s licenses to other noncitizens who are in the United States legally, the court said, and there was no rational reason to treat the young immigrants affected by the 2012 initiative differently.
The court also discussed at length the possibility that the state policy was trumped by federal law, but it did not ground its decision on that point.
Judge Harry Pregerson, writing for the panel, said the state policy “appears intended to express animus” toward the young immigrants.
“Plaintiffs’ ability to drive is integral to their ability to work — after all, 87 percent of Arizona workers commute to work by car,” Judge Pregerson wrote. “It is unsurprising, then, that plaintiffs’ inability to obtain driver’s licenses has hurt their ability to advance their careers.”
In her application for emergency relief, Ms. Brewer argued that both of the Obama administration’s immigration initiatives were unlawful. The executive branch, she said, “does not have the authority to unilaterally create, change or violate federal immigration law.”
Such executive action, she continued, cannot displace state laws. While Ms. Brewer conceded that the Ninth Circuit had not relied on that ground to block the law, she nonetheless urged the Supreme Court to consider the point in its analysis.
In response to the Ninth Circuit’s equal protection analysis, Ms. Brewer said there were good reasons to treat the young immigrants differently, including “the risk of potential liability to the state,” the possibility that the immigrants would improperly use the licenses to obtain public benefits, and the burden of processing the licenses.
The challengers to the law — five immigrants and a group promoting the interests of young immigrants — responded that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling was unexceptional, as 48 states grant driver’s licenses to people covered by the 2012 initiative. (The other state that does not grant them is Nebraska.)
“Arizona is an outlier in its discrimination,” said the brief, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.
The brief added that the case was not the right one in which to litigate Mr. Obama’s executive authority, an issue that was not considered by the lower courts. That question, as Ms. Brewer’s brief noted, is the subject of a new lawsuit filed in Texas by Arizona and more than 20 other states.

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