Young immigrants authorized to work in the U.S. under a new federal program won’t be able to get driver’s licenses in Arizona.
Republican Governor Jan Brewer issued an executive order saying state law bars benefits or state-issued identification for those in the country illegally -- including those who qualify for the deferred enforcement program announced by President Barack Obama in June, which kicked off yesterday. She directed agencies to block access for an estimated 80,000 immigrants in Arizona who may qualify for the federal program.
The order from Brewer came as thousands of young illegal immigrants lined up around the country to apply for work permits under the new rules. The program stops deportations of immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years, were brought to the U.S. before age 16 and go to school, graduate from high school or serve in the military, among other criteria.
Brewer was propelled to national prominence after signing a first-of-its-kind state immigration law in 2010 that requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally during stops, arrests or detentions.
Under existing law, immigrants in Arizona are able to get state identification as long as they can show they are lawfully present in the country, according to a statement from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
In her executive order, Brewer said documents issued under the new program don’t prove lawful status and allowing those young people to get state-issued identification or benefits would “have significant and lasting impacts on the Arizona budget.”
Brewer’s spokesman, Matthew Benson, said the president’s action has created confusion in state agencies and that Brewer is seeking to clarify and defend state law.
“The governor can’t undo what the president has done, but she can take a stand for state law,” Benson said. “By no definition are these individuals lawfully present or lawfully authorized to be in the United States. All they have received is a deferral from being prosecuted or deported.”