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Immigration Law

Arizona's 'No DLs for DACAs' Policy May Not Survive Equal Protection (Rational Basis) Challenge

While most news articles focus on Judge Campbell's March 16, 2013 denial of Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction in ADAC et al. v. Brewer et al., CV12-02546 PHX DGC, of greater import is Judge Campbell's position on Plaintiffs' equal protection (rational basis) argument:

"When the Court considers what appears to be the actual reason for Arizona’s driver’s license policy, it concludes that the policy is likely to invoke, and fail, such rational basis scrutiny. ... The Court recognizes that a governor may legitimately disagree with the federal government on policy and political matters, and certainly has the right to voice those disagreements. But the Court cannot conclude that such views constitute a rational basis for treating similarly situated people differently with respect to driver’s licenses. ... The Governor’s disagreement with the DACA program may be a rational political or policy view in the broad sense – reasonable people certainly can disagree on an issue as complex and difficult as immigration – but it provides no justification for saying that an Arizona driver’s license may be issued to one person who has been permitted to remain temporarily in the country on deferred action status – say for an individual humanitarian reason – while another person who has been permitted to remain temporarily in the country on deferred action status under the DACA program is denied a license. Both individuals have been granted deferred action status through federal prosecutorial discretion, both have been granted that status temporarily, both are eligible to work while here, and both may be issued EADs. The Governor’s political disagreement with the DACA program as “backdoor amnesty” does not change the fact that both individuals have been allowed by the federal government to live and work here, nor does it identify a reason that one of the individuals presents less of a driver’s-license-related risk to the State. Thus, although some might view the Governor’s stated reasons for issuing the Executive Order as rational, it is not related to the policy considerations that underlie the issuance of driver’s licenses and therefore does not satisfy the rational basis test. ... Defendants have suggested several other rational bases for their policy ... The Court is not persuaded that any of these suggested justifications would survive active rational basis review. ... In summary, the Court concludes that Defendants’ distinction between DACA recipients and other deferred action recipients is likely to fail rational basis review. The Court is not saying that the Constitution requires the State of Arizona to grant driver’s licenses to all noncitizens or to all individuals on deferred action status. But if the State chooses to confer licenses to some individuals with deferred action status, it may not deny it to others without a rational basis for the distinction." - Pp. 27-32.