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Arizona's Driver's License Policy Creates Confusion


State officials are going to grant driver's licenses to some people who aren’t in the country legally, even as they continue to deny the same privilege to "DREAMers.'' Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.

Last month the Obama administration decided it would not deport the undocumented relatives of those serving in the military, veterans and certain reservists. The program, known as “parole in place,” also entitles those who qualify to get documents that entitle them to work in this country legally. These are the same documents given to those in the administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — people who entered this country illegally as children and meet certain conditions. But, the state Department of Transportation has concluded that only those paroled in place will get licenses. Attorney Victor Viramontes of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund blasted that distinction.

“This is another example of the state irrationally discriminating between some people that the federal government has authorized to be present and others,” Viramontes said. “And in every instance where Arizona has irrationally discriminated against individuals, they single out DACA recipients to those with authorized presence.”

But, ADOT spokesman Timothy Tait said licenses can be legally granted only to those “authorized by federal law to be in this country.” He said immigration law specifically allows for parole in place — but that DACA recipients are simply the beneficiaries of Homeland Security choosing not to try to have them deported. It ultimately will be up to a federal court to decide who is right.

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