Judge orders Ariz. gov's staff to turn over some documents in immigrant driver's licenses case

First Posted: January 15, 2014 - 6:10 pm
Last Updated: January 15, 2014 - 6:14 pm

PHOENIX — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Gov. Jan Brewer's office to turn over some internal documents about its policy of denying drivers' licenses to people who were brought into the country illegally as children but allowed to stay under a new federal program.

The state at first denied the licenses to people who were brought to the country illegally, but in September expanded it to include all people who were given deportation deferrals. Immigrant rights activists sued to block the policy, arguing that it was unconstitutional.

Activist groups asked U.S. District Judge David Campbell to order Brewer's staff and the Arizona Department of Transportation to produce documents leading up to the policy and its later changes. Brewer's lawyers say the internal memos and emails are protected by attorney-client privilege.

In an 11-page ruling, Campbell ruled Brewer's office must give some of the documents to the plaintiffs within 14 days. It wasn't immediately clear what is contained in those documents and Brewer's staff didn't immediately respond Wednesday afternoon to a request for comment on the judge's order.

The controversy over Arizona's driver's license policy started after the Obama administration took administrative steps to shield thousands of young immigrants from deportation in 2012.

Applicants for the deferment program must have come to the U.S. before they turned 16, be younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, be in school or have graduated from high school or a GED program, or have served in the military. They also were allowed to apply for a two-year renewable work permit.

Campbell ruled last May that Arizona's policy of denying licenses to young people given deferrals was likely discriminatory. That's because some immigrants with similarly issued work permits get driver's licenses yet those young immigrants protected under Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can't.

But the judge refused to block the policy and activists appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said Brewer was making the policy change just to get out from under the lawsuit, to the detriment of other immigrants given work permits under deferred action policies. They include human trafficking victims, widows and victims of domestic violence.