Arizona revisits immigrant driver’s license debate

YUMA, Ariz. – In December high school student Eder Munguia made his way to the Motor Vehicle Division to get his first driver’s manual. The teen was excited to learn that under president Obama’s Dream Act, Arizona would have to allow him and other immigrants to get a driver’s license.

Munguia says, “My heart dropped to be honest, the opportunity to be able to drive like I said it’s been my longest dream to actually even feel normal amongst my peers.” But now his heart is dropping for different reason. 

Friday,  Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich appealed the ruling.  This means the ninth district court of appeals will have to revisit the argument whether immigrants should be allowed to have a driver’s licence. Brnovich believes driving is a privilege not a right, and says that states shouldn’t have to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

But attorney Michael Smith with Bowman & Smith believes it’s more than a privilege. “It’s almost a right. And when they take it away from you, it hurts. But it’s still good public policy to have licensed drivers on the road,” said Smith.

A local immigration counselor with Chicanos Por La Causa says qualified immigrants are already attending school and work, so the license to drive is key.  “They are already out there in the community, they are already receiving their work permits of course they’re going to have to drive. So to be able to afford them a drivers license or a permit driving legally is the only logical explanation.”

Munguia who will still apply for a license further begs the question, “But why rule out someone who is already here and trying to live the american dream like everybody. Why would you take such a stepping stone away from us?”

Attorney Smith believes the immigrants are in the middle of a political move by the state’s governor to counteract Obama’s federal ruling. “They’re trying to stop the driver’s licenses as a reason to interfere with what the president has done. And it’s politics. There’s no benefit at all by not licensing these people.”

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