818 F.3d 901 (9th Cir. 2016), 15-15307, Arizona DREAM Act Coalition v. Brewer

Docket Nº:15-15307
Citation:818 F.3d 901
Opinion Judge:Harry Pregerson, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:ARIZONA DREAM ACT COALITION; CHRISTIAN JACOBO; ALEJANDRA LOPEZ; ARIEL MARTINEZ; NATALIA PEREZ-GALLEGOS; CARLA CHAVARRIA; JOSE RICARDO HINOJOS, Plaintiffs - Appellees, v. JANICE K. BREWER, Governor of the State of Arizona, in her official capacity; JOHN S. HALIKOWSKI, Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, in his official capacity; ST
Attorney:Karen Tumlin (argued), Shiu-Ming Cheer, Nicholas Espiritu, Linton Joaquin, and Nora A. Preciado, National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, CA; Tanya Broder, National Immigration Law Center, Oakland, CA; Jorge Martin Castillo and Victor Viramontes, Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fu...
Judge Panel:Before: Harry Pregerson, Marsha S. Berzon, and Morgan B. Christen, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:April 05, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
SUMMARY

Plaintiffs, five individual recipients of deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the ADAC, seek permanently to enjoin defendants from categorically denying drivers' licenses to DACA recipients. Defendants had instituted a policy that rejected the Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) issued to DACA recipients under the DACA program as proof of... (see full summary)

 
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818 F.3d 901 (9th Cir. 2016)

ARIZONA DREAM ACT COALITION; CHRISTIAN JACOBO; ALEJANDRA LOPEZ; ARIEL MARTINEZ; NATALIA PEREZ-GALLEGOS; CARLA CHAVARRIA; JOSE RICARDO HINOJOS, Plaintiffs - Appellees,

v.

JANICE K. BREWER, Governor of the State of Arizona, in her official capacity; JOHN S. HALIKOWSKI, Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, in his official capacity; STACEY K. STANTON, Assistant Director of the Motor Vehicle Division of the Arizona Department of Transportation, in her official capacity, Defendants - Appellants

No. 15-15307

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

April 5, 2016

Argued and Submitted July 16, 2015

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. D.C. No. 2:12-cv-02546-DGC. David G. Campbell, District Judge, Presiding.

AFFIRMED.

Karen Tumlin (argued), Shiu-Ming Cheer, Nicholas Espiritu, Linton Joaquin, and Nora A. Preciado, National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, CA; Tanya Broder, National Immigration Law Center, Oakland, CA; Jorge Martin Castillo and Victor Viramontes, Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund, Los Angeles, CA; Rodkangyil Danjuma, ACLU Foundation of Northern California, San Francisco, CA; Lee Gelernt and Michael K.T. Tan, American Civil Liberties Union, New York, NY; James Lyall and Daniel J. Pochoda, ACLU of Arizona, Phoenix, AZ; Jennifer C. Newell and Cecillia D. Wang, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Immigrants' Rights Project, San Francisco, CA; Kelly Flood, ASU Alumni Law Group, Phoenix, AZ, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Dominic Draye (argued) and John Robert Lopez, IV, Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix, AZ; Timothy Berg, Sean Hood, and Douglas C. Northup, Fennemore Craig P.C., Phoenix, AZ, for Defendants-Appellants.

Dale Wilcox, Washington, D.C. for Amicus Curiae Immigration Reform Law Institute.

Lindsey Powell, Washington D.C. for Amicus Curiae United States of America.

Before: Harry Pregerson, Marsha S. Berzon, and Morgan B. Christen, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Harry Pregerson, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs are five individual recipients of deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (" DACA" ) program, and the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition (" ADAC" ), an organization that advances the interests of young immigrants. DACA recipients are noncitizens who were brought to this country as children. Under the DACA program, they are permitted to remain in the United States for some period of time as long as they meet certain conditions. Authorized by federal executive order, the DACA program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security and is consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling that the federal government " has broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens" under the Constitution. Arizona v. United States, 132 S.Ct. 2492, 2498, 183 L.Ed.2d 351 (2012).

In response to the creation of the DACA program, Defendants--the Governor of the State of Arizona; the Arizona Department of Transportation (" ADOT" ) Director; and the Assistant Director of the Motor Vehicle Division--instituted a policy that rejected the Employment Authorization Documents (" EADs" ) issued to DACA recipients under the DACA program as proof of authorized presence for the purpose of obtaining a driver's license. Plaintiffs seek permanently to enjoin Defendants from categorically denying drivers' licenses to DACA recipients. The district court ruled that Arizona's policy was not rationally related to a legitimate government purpose and thus violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and entered a permanent injunction. Defendants appealed.

We agree with the district court that DACA recipients are similarly situated to other groups of noncitizens Arizona deems eligible for drivers' licenses. As a result, Arizona's disparate treatment of DACA recipients may well violate the Equal Protection Clause, as our previous opinion indicated is likely the case. Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer, 757 F.3d 1053 (9th Cir. 2014). The district court relied on this ground when it issued the permanent injunction. Applying the principle of constitutional avoidance, however, we need not and should not come to rest on the Equal Protection issue, even if it " is a plausible, and quite possibly meritorious" claim for Plaintiffs, so long as there is a viable alternate, nonconstitutional ground to reach the same result. Overstreet v. United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., Local Union No. 1506, 409 F.3d 1199, 1211 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. v. Fla. Gulf Coast Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council, 485 U.S. 568, 576-78, 108 S.Ct. 1392, 99 L.Ed.2d 645 (1988)).

We conclude that there is. Arizona's policy classifies noncitizens based on Arizona's independent definition of " authorized presence," classification authority denied the states under the Immigration and Nationality Act (" INA" ), 8 U.S.C. § 1101, et seq. We therefore affirm the district court's order that Arizona's policy is preempted by the exclusive authority of the federal government to classify noncitizens.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

I. The DACA Program

On June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced the DACA program pursuant to the DACA Memorandum. Under the DACA program, the Department of Homeland Security exercises its prosecutorial discretion not to seek removal of certain young immigrants. The DACA program allows these young immigrants, including members of ADAC, to remain in the United States for some period of time as long as they meet specified conditions.

To qualify for the DACA program, immigrants must have come to the United States before the age of sixteen and must have been under the age of thirty-one by June 15, 2012. See Memorandum from Secretary Janet Napolitano, Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children (June 15, 2012). They must have been living in the United States at the time the DACA program was announced and must have continuously resided here for at least the previous five years. Id. Additionally, DACA-eligible immigrants must be enrolled in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a General Educational Development certification, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or Coast Guard. Id. They must not pose a threat to public safety and must undergo extensive criminal background checks. Id.

If granted deferred action under DACA, immigrants may remain in the United States for renewable two-year periods. DACA recipients enjoy no formal immigration status, but the Department of Homeland Security does not consider them to be unlawfully present in the United States and allows them to receive federal EADs.

II. Arizona's Executive Order

On August 15, 2012, the Governor of Arizona issued Arizona Executive Order 2012-06 (" Arizona Executive Order" ). Executive Order 2012-06, " Re-Affirming Intent of Arizona Law In Response to the Federal Government's Deferred Action Program" (Aug. 15, 2012). A clear response to DACA, the Arizona Executive Order states that " the Deferred Action program does not and cannot confer lawful or authorized status or presence upon the unlawful alien applicants." Id. at 1. The Arizona Executive Order announced that " [t]he issuance of Deferred Action or Deferred Action USCIS employment authorization documents to unlawfully present aliens does not confer upon them any lawful or authorized status and does not entitle them to any additional public benefit." Id. The Order directed Arizona state agencies, including ADOT, to " initiate operational, policy, rule and statutory changes necessary to prevent Deferred Action recipients from obtaining eligibility, beyond those available to any person regardless of lawful status, for any taxpayer-funded public benefits and state identification, including a driver's license." Id.

III. Arizona's Driver's License Policy

To implement the Arizona Executive Order, officials at ADOT and its Motor Vehicle Division initiated changes to Arizona's policy for issuing drivers' licenses. Under Arizona state law, applicants can receive a driver's license only if they can " submit proof satisfactory to the department that the applicant's presence in the United States is authorized under federal law." Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 28-3153(D). Prior to the Arizona Executive Order, ADOT Policy 16.1.2 included all federally issued EADs as " proof satisfactory" that an applicant's presence was " authorized under federal law." The Motor Vehicle Division therefore issued drivers' licenses to all individuals with such documentation.

After the Arizona Executive Order, the Motor Vehicle Division...

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