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Arizona court of appeals allows DACA recipients drivers licenses

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Savannah Douglas
Savannah Douglas / The Daily Wildcat David Mendoza (center), a veteran, was at the Tucson DMV on Monday with Connie Mendoza (right) and Frank Gomez (left).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against Arizona’s attempt to prevent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivalsc recipients on April 5, also referred to as DREAMers, from keeping their driver’s licenses.

The panel ruled against former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s 2012 executive order to deny undocumented immigrants, who fall under the DACA requirements either because they are in the U.S. on work permits or have been granted deportation amnesty, the right to obtain driver’s licenses.

“Arizona’s policy was not rationally related to a legitimate government purpose and thus violated the Equal Protection Clause of the [14th] Amendment,” according to the ruling.

One individual who is affected by this ruling is Pablo Medrano. He came to the U.S. when he was 8 years old.

“It was a little easier back then,” Medrano said. “But new laws starting coming in and law enforcement were getting a little pushier, I guess.”

Medrano said he never thought about a driver’s license or work while growing up.

“I was just growing up thinking everything was fine,” Medrano said.

Medrano said when he first found out about those who qualify under the DREAM Act and DACA not being able to get licenses, he was disappointed.

“It made things kind of hard,” Medrano said. “You were scared to drive.”

Since the ruling, Medrano said life has been easier and the ruling has gotten rid of the terror of driving around.

Medrano said a big misconception about DREAMers or DACA recipients is they are lazy and don’t strive to make any differences. But Medrano said he doesn’t feel discriminated against.

“I’m not one to judge, I don’t have a hateful background,” he said. “I don’t think people hate me or anything like that.”

Dario Andrade Mendoza, a UA mechanical engineering junior, is a DACA recipient. Just like Medrano, he came to the U.S. when he was 8 years old and has lived in Tucson ever since.

“Being able to keep my driver’s license is a huge advantage to myself because just like everybody else, I need to get around the city,” Andrade Mendoza said. “Whether it’s to get to school or to go to work.”

Andrade Mendoza said the ruling is extremely beneficial, but it’s important to keep two things in mind.

“It only applies to DACA recipients, which is the minority of undocumented individuals in the country,” Andrade Mendoza said. “And we have to remember there are millions and millions of people all across the country and hundreds of thousands in Arizona who can’t get a driver’s license, even though it’s something we should all have access to.”

The judges’ ruling paves the way for the future, according to Andrade Mendoza. But Andrade Mendoza said he and others are constantly in a state of worry because DACA is only a policy and could be overturned depending on who the next president is.

“We end up being such a political game,” Andrade Mendoza said.

Andrade Mendoza said that while it is something that is always “up in the air, it’s something we try not to lose sleep over.”

Just because someone is a DREAMer or a DACA recipient doesn’t mean things are easily available, according to Andrade Mendoza. Just as he fought for DREAMers to receive in-state tuition, he is willing to fight for future generations.

Reflecting on the ruling, Medrano hopes that in the people will be able to see past someone’s status as a citizen.

“People shouldn’t get judged,” Medrano said. “People should just help others. People should see the best in others and people should try to be the best in themselves.”


Follow Amanda Oien on Twitter.


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