The Guardian reports: Alejandra Lopez, 19, is one of thousands of young Hispanic "Dreamers" who grew up in the US and have been authorised to live and work here under Barack Obama's deportation reprieve.
But Lopez, the main carer for three US citizens – her child and two younger brothers – has been forced to turn down job interviews because she has been denied a driving licence by her home state of Arizona.
She is one of five young undocumented immigrants from the state who filed a class action lawsuit on Wednesday challenging what they say is its unconstitutional and discriminatory policy of depriving them of a driving licence or other state identification.
Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, issued an order in August this year to deny recipients of Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program any state identification of any kind, including licences. The DACA order, which was announced in June this year, allows undocumented young immigrants who came to the US as children to live and work here for a renewable period of two years.
The lawsuit was filed in the US district court for the state of Arizona on behalf of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, an immigrant youth-led organization, Lopez and four other individuals. (The Dream Act is the name given to legislation, delayed in Congress for years, that would grant citizenship to certain undocumented migrants. Aspirant migrants living in the US are known as Dreamers.)
Jennifer Chang Newell, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's immigrants' rights project, said: "Jan Brewer is thumbing her nose at the federal government. Federal immigration authorities have lifted the shadow of deportation from these bright and hardworking Dreamers, but Arizona insists on pursuing its own immigration policy aimed at keeping them in the dark."
She said that 87% of workers in Arizona, a state which has a poor public transportation network, drive to work.
"Rather than deny these young people the ability to drive – an everyday necessity for most people – our leaders should come together to enact long-term solutions that would allow our talented immigrant youth to achieve the American dream."
Brewer issued her order on 15 August, the day that the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) began accepting DACA applications. Brewer instructed agencies to "prevent DACA recipients from obtaining eligibility" for any "state identification including a driver's license" the lawsuit says. Arizona's motor vehicle division implemented Brewer's order on September 18.
Previous to the order, according to the lawsuit, DACA recipients would have been able to meet the requirements for a driving licence by submitting their employment authorisation documents. The legal challenge names Brewer as well as officials in the state's department for transportation.
Lopez, who has lived in the United States since she was four and is married to a US citizen, said: "It's hard to take my child to the doctor or help my two little brothers get to school and after school activities without being able to drive."
The high school graduate, who was granted federally deferred action status, including a work permit, in October, said: "Somebody offered me a job interview in Tempe (Arizona), which is about 25 miles away from where I live, but I had to turn it down because I'm not allowed to drive a car."
The lawsuit claims that Arizona's policy violates the supremacy clause of the US constitution by interfering with federal immigration law, and that it also violates the 14th amendment's equal protection clause by discriminating against certain non-citizens.
Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center, said: "Young people like Alejandra have so much to contribute to Arizona. Unfortunately, her effort to fully participate in his community is stymied by governor Brewer's unlawful and wrong-headed executive order, which specifically targets immigrant youth who often know no other home."
An estimated 1.76 million young people in the United States are eligible for the DACA programme, including 80,000 in Arizona, according to the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, non-profit think tank in Washington DC. The USCS has deferred action to at least 53,275 individuals nationwide under the DACA programme, the lawsuit says.
Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said: "This is a shameless attack on our youth. When our youngest and brightest residents are prevented from getting licenses, going to school or work and pursuing their dreams, entire communities suffer."
The ACLU also said it is continuing to challenge Arizona's notorious SB 1070 immigration law. The US supreme court struck down many of the provisions of the state's SB 1070 law in June this year, but the most controversial part of the law – the clause known as the "show me your papers" provision – that instructs police to investigate the immigration status of those they suspect of being undocumented who they come across in the course of other policing matters – was upheld.