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9:01 PM Wed, July 18th

Dreamers to keep drivers licenses while DACA program in place

Elias Garcia chants with other demonstrators on Martin Luther King Boulevard during a United We Dream march in Chattanooga, Tenn., Saturday, March 3, 2018. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press, via AP)

Elias Garcia chants with other demonstrators on Martin Luther King Boulevard during a United We Dream march in Chattanooga, Tenn., Saturday, March 3, 2018. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press, via AP)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s “dreamers’’ will keep their licenses to drive — at least as long as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program remains in existence.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rebuffed the last-ditch plea by Attorney General Mark Brnovich to uphold a 2012 executive order by then-Gov. Jan Brewer to deny licenses to DACA recipients, an order current Gov. Doug Ducey has left in place. The justices gave no reason for their ruling.

Monday’s ruling ends years of efforts by the state to claim that the decision by the Obama administration to allow those in the program to remain in this country and work does not mean they are “authorized’’ to be here.

That verbiage is significant.

It was shortly after the action by Obama that Brewer directed the state Department of Transportation to deny licenses to DACA recipients. She cited a 1996 Arizona law that says state licenses are available only to those whose presence in this country is “authorized by federal law.’’

Brewer argued that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has no legal authority to permit DACA recipients to remain and work. And what that meant, Brewer said, is they were not “authorized’’ to be here.

That argument failed to persuade federal appellate judges who said Arizona cannot decide for itself who is legally entitled to be in the country. In fact, Judge Harry Pregerson wrote that the state policy “appears intended to express animus toward DACA recipients.’’

With today’s high court action, that ruling is now final.

At last count there were about 30,000 DACA recipients in Arizona.

ADOT does not have current figures on how many of them have been issued licenses while the case was pending. The last update, in April 2016, showed more than 21,000 DACA recipients with licenses.

Brewer told Capitol Media Services she was disappointed not only in Monday’s ruling but also in the fact that the Department of Justice, now under the control of Donald Trump who she supported for president, asked the Supreme Court to reject Arizona’s petition. And the former governor said she still maintains that she was correct in arguing that Arizona has the right to decide who does and does not get a state-issued driver’s license.

“Obviously, they trampled all over the Tenth Amendment,’’ she said, which says powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution “are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.’’

And she called DACA “an illegal Obama executive action that trumped states’ rights.’’