American Bar Association
Media Alerts
Media Alerts - Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer
Decrease font size
Increase font size
October 2, 2014
  Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer
Headline: 9th Cir. Reverses the denial of a motion for prelim. Injun. against the AZ Dept. of Transportation in an action challenging a policy of using employment documents as proof of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals authorized presence in the U.S.

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Civil Rights

Issue(s) Presented: Is a state policy to deny recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") preempted by the federal DACA program?

Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to United States Constitution is a policy denying recipients of driver's licenses based on receipt of prosecutorial discretion pursuant to DACA rationally related to a legitimate government interest?

Under Rent-A-Ctr., Inc. v. Canyon Television & Appliance Rental, Inc. is a state's denial of driver's licenses based on a person's receipt of prosecutorial discretion under DACA likely to cause irreparable harm to DACA recipients?

Brief Summary: DACA is a federal program granting recipients a renewable two-year period in which the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") considers the recipient not to be unlawfully present in the United States but grants no formal immigration status.

The Arizona Department of Transportation initiated a policy prohibiting recipients of DACA from using Employment Authorization Documents to obtain a driver's license.

First the Court found that the Plaintiffs were seeking a prohibitory injunction based on maintaining the status quo in preventing the Arizona Department of Transportation from changing the law to deny DACA recipients' driver's licenses.

Next the Court found that the Plaintiff's conflict-preemption theory was plausible but declined to decide whether it was likely to succeed on the merits, opting to analyze the Plaintiff's Equal Protection claim instead.

Without determining the standard of scrutiny, the Court held that the Arizona Department of Transportation policy would fail under Rational Basis review because the decision to treat DACA recipients differently from other noncitizen Employment Authorization Document holders was not pursuant to a legitimate government interest.

The Court also held that Plaintiffs were likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction. The Court reasoned that the Plaintiffs lack of driver's licenses limited their career opportunities and caused them irreparable harm, especially in light of their young age and fragile socioeconomic position in their early careers.

The Court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter a preliminary injunction prohibiting Defendants from enforcing any policy allowing the Arizona Department of Transportation to refuse to accept Plaintiffs' Employment Authorization Documents.

Concurrence: Circuit Judge Christen joined in the majority opinion and concurred as to the majority's discussion regarding Plaintiffs' preemption claim asserting that Plaintiffs had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits because Arizona crafted its own definition of authorized presence thereby creating a new immigration classification and infringing on the exclusive domain of the federal government.

Extended Summary: Preliminarily, the Court set forth the pertinent parts of DACA and the Arizona law.

DACA is a federal program granting recipients a renewable two-year period in which the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") considers the recipient not to be unlawfully present in the United States but grants no formal immigration status.

To qualify, the applicant must have entered the United States under the age of sixteen and must be under thirty-one years old as of June 15, 2012. The applicant must have continuously resided in the United States for at least the previous five years. The applicant must have either graduated from high school, obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces or the Coast Guard, or must be currently enrolled in school. Additionally, the applicant must not pose a threat to public safety and anyone convicted of multiple misdemeanors, a single significant misdemeanor, or any felony is ineligible.

Arizona law prohibits the Arizona Department of Transportation from issuing driver's licenses to anyone who fails to "submit proof of presence in the United States under federal law." Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 28-3153(D). Following the Arizona Governor's Executive Order 2012-06, the Arizona Department of Transportation's Policy 16.1.2 ceased to permit federal Employment Authorization Documents to establish lawful presence for the purpose of the Arizona statute. While the Plaintiffs' appeal was pending, Defendants revised the policy to accept other federal Employment Authorization Documents except those issued under DACA.

First, the Court noted the difference between a mandatory injunction and a prohibitory injunction. The Court stated that the Plaintiffs sought to maintain the status quo regarding the Arizona Department of Transportation license eligibility standards, in general. The Plaintiffs were therefore not subject to a heightened burden of proof in seeking the injunction.

Next, the Court analyzed the likelihood of Plaintiffs' success on the merits and discussed preemption and equal protection.

The Court stated that Plaintiff's conflict-preemption theory was plausible in that federal law can preempt state law when state law obstructs the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.

The Court held that denial of driver's licenses to DACA recipients is sufficiently linked to their ability to work, and therefore the Arizona policy would be conflict-preempted. The Court reasoned that DACA was created pursuant to the Executive Branch's broad, congressionally granted discretion regarding work authorization for noncitizens. Because DACA recipients are required to apply for employment authorization to remain productive members of society, and because the ability to drive is a virtual necessity for people who want to work in Arizona, denying driver's licenses to DACA recipients would frustrate the objectives and purposes of Congress.

The Court did not consider the likelihood of Plaintiffs' success on the merits under the preemption theory, nor did the Court address all of Plaintiff's preemption arguments, but analyzed the likelihood of success under the equal protection claim instead.

Under the Equal Protection Clause, the Court first identified that under Arizona's revised policy, DACA recipients were targeted for disparate treatment as compared to other noncitizens holding Employment Authorization Documents.

Without determining the standard of scrutiny, the Court held that the policy is likely to fail even under rational basis review. The Court rejected Defendants' argument that other noncitizens holding Employment Authorization Documents were on a path to citizenship because not all such noncitizens' applications for adjustment of status or cancellation of removal would be granted.

The Court reasoned that because federal law did not distinguish lawful presence between DACA recipients and other noncitizens with Employment Authorization Documents, there was no basis for treating DACA recipients differently.

The Court then considered and rejected four more justifications proposed by Defendants.

First, the Court rejected Defendants unsubstantiated contention that Arizona would face legal liability for issuing driver's licenses to unauthorized immigrants, especially in light of the fact that not a single instance of such liability exposure was identified.

Second, the Court rejected Defendants argument that possession of a driver's license might allow DACA recipients to access benefits to which they are not entitled, stating that there was no basis to believe a driver's license alone could establish eligibility for such benefits.

Third, the Court rejected Defendants' argument that in the event DACA was cancelled, Arizona would have to revoke driver's licenses issued to DACA recipients, stating that other noncitizens holding Employment Authorization Documents were at a far greater risk of having applications for adjustment of status or cancellation of removal denied.

Fourth, for the same reasoning it used in rejecting Defendant's third argument, the Court rejected Defendant's argument that in the event DACA was cancelled, persons injured in car accidents would be left with no financial recourse when the DACA recipients would be quickly removed.

The Court therefore held that the Plaintiffs demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of the equal protection claim.

The Court also held that Plaintiffs were likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction. The Court reasoned that the Plaintiffs lack of driver's licenses limited their career opportunities and caused them irreparable harm, especially in light of their young age and fragile socioeconomic position in their early careers.

Lastly, in addressing other factors regarding an injunction, the Court identified that it would not be equitable or in the public's interest to allow a state to violate federal law, especially when there are no adequate remedies available.

The Court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter a preliminary injunction prohibiting Defendants from enforcing any policy allowing the Arizona Department of Transportation to refuse to accept Plaintiffs' Employment Authorization Documents.

Concurrence:

Circuit Judge Christen joined in the majority opinion and concurred as to the majority's discussion regarding Plaintiffs' preemption claim asserting that Plaintiffs had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits because Arizona crafted its own definition of authorized presence thereby creating a new immigration classification and infringing on the exclusive domain of the federal government.

The concurrence stated that in distinguishing DACA recipients from other noncitizens holding Employment Authorization Documents, Defendants' usage of "a path to legal status" in deeming what individuals are authorized to be present in the United States is an impermissible regulation of immigration status.

The concurrence reasoned that based on the comprehensiveness of the Immigration & Naturalization Act, the entire regulatory field of immigration is so pervasive that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it.

For the full opinion: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/da.../13-16248_opinion.pdf

Panel: Harry Pregerson, Marsha S. Berzon, and Morgan Christen, Circuit Judges.

Date of Issued Opinion: July 7, 2014

Docket Number: 13-16248

Decided: Reversed.

Case Alert Author: Brandon Powell

Counsel: Victor Viramontes (argued) and Jorge M. Castillo, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Los Angeles, California; Jennifer Chang Newell, Cecillia D. Wang, Araceli Martínez, Michael Tan, and R. Orion Danjuma, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Immigrants' Rights Project, San Francisco, California; Linton Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Nora A. Preciado, and Nicholás Espíritu, National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, California; Daniel J. Pochoda, Kelly J. Flood, and James Duff Lyall,
ACLU Foundation of Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Author of Opinion: Pregerson, Circuit Judge.

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Ryan T. Williams

    Posted By: Ryan Williams @ 10/02/2014 12:07 PM     9th Circuit  

FuseTalk Enterprise Edition - © 1999-2018 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Discussion Board Usage Agreement

Back to Top