shutterstock_167205071In Arizona, a high school student that has been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) can create an award-winning underwater robot from Home Depot parts, but can’t legally drive to school (more about that below).  Thanks to a mean-spirited August 15, 2012 executive order from Arizona Governor Brewer, DACA recipients are prohibited from receiving driver’s licenses in the state.  However, on Monday, the Ninth Circuit gave Arizona DACAmented individuals a significant victory in their battle against Governor Brewer for the right to get drivers licenses.

The Court held that DACA recipients demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their equal protection claim, that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm and reversed the Arizona District Court’s denial of a preliminary injunction.

Nearly two years ago, in response to Governor Brewer’s executive order, I authored an open letter to the Governor posted on this same blog in which I predicted that Governor Brewer would ultimately lose the battle and, in the process, waste precious Arizona taxpayer dollars.  Thus far, my prediction is proving to be accurate.

Over the past two years, I have spoken with many DACA recipients in Arizona and have seen how they have continued to struggle to achieve some form of normalcy in their lives.  All that they want is the opportunity to obtain an education and succeed like many immigrants before them.  Most still struggle with the high cost of college and have to find work to help supplement the household income.  Even with a job, the lack of a driver’s license places a significant roadblock to their ability to thrive.  While Governor Brewer has attempted to break the spirit of those receiving DACA, she has ultimately failed and has spawned an even more vociferous group of advocates pushing for reforms to our broken immigration system.

The lack of ability to attain an Arizona driver’s license still begs the question: why would DACA recipients want to remain in Arizona?  They could move to any neighboring state and get a drivers license.  For some this is not economically feasible, for others it is about staying close to family and friends and for others it would be a symbol of defeat.  Arizona is their home and they are not going to let an oppressive governor force them to leave.

The timing of this decision is apropos as this upcoming Friday the theatrical release of the documentary Underwater Dreams will take place in Los Angeles and New York.  The film chronicles a group of undocumented students and their science teachers from Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix.  The students create an underwater robot and enter a national underwater robotics competition where they ultimately defeat everyone including a group of students from MIT.  Many students that attend Carl Hayden High School are also members of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Governor Brewer.

What will Governor Brewer do next? She has already indicated that her office is “analyzing options for appealing the misguided court opinion”.  While she contemplates her next reprehensible move, the DACA recipients will continue to strive to become the next group of leaders, organizers and innovators in Arizona and across the United States.

Written by Maurice “Mo” Goldman, Chair, AILA Media Advocacy Committee

Note: If you are interested in learning more about Underwater Dreams or hosting a screening of the film please visit the website: