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Updated Aug 15, 2012, 9:11 pm Originally posted Aug 15, 2012, 3:22 pm
Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order Wednesday, denying drivers licenses and other state benefits to illegal immigrants who receive "deferred action" status under a federal program that just began accepting applications.
At an afternoon press conference, Brewer admitted, "It actually is no different than what was already in place," while calling the move by the Obama administration an "amnesty program."
The governor said in the order it was the intent of Arizona law to deny such benefits to "unlawfully present aliens," and that the federal government has said the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program "does not and cannot confer lawful or authorized status or presence."
The head of the Arizona branch of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the order.
"Brewer is distorting federal law and inaccurately interpreting state law," said Alessandra Soler. "This order conflicts with state and federal law because people who are granted deferred action will, in fact, have authorized presence in the United States and under Arizona law people who have authorized presence are eligible to apply for Arizona state identification."
Brewer's order directed that state agencies "that confer taxpayer-funded public benefits and state issued identification shall undergo emergency rule making to address this issue..."
The order called the program to delay deportation hearings against some young illegal immigrants, and to grant some of them authorization to work in the United State, "purportedly an act of prosecutorial discretion."
The program "does not grant any additional public benefit" to illegal immigrants who were brought to the country at a young age, Brewer said.
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Brewer "is perpetuating the myth that deferred action applicants are somehow submitting fraudulent documents and that is completely false," the ACLU's Soler said.
"Not only is she singling out young people who are eligible for deferred action, but she also is excluding other categories of non-citizens who are authorized to be in the country, including victims of domestic violence, from obtaining state-identification while their immigration applications are being processed," Soler said.
"This is yet another reason why Arizona has no business trying to regulate immigration matters," she said.
Some 80,000 Arizona residents could be eligible for the program, which began accepting applications Wednesday.
The program gives eligible illegal immigrants a two-year, renewable deferral from deportation. Applicants can also receive work authorization under the program, which implements many of the provisions of the DREAM Act, which has been blocked in Congress.
Beginning Wednesday, individuals who think they qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – people under 31 who were brought here illegally as children, among other requirements – can download the application from the USCIS website.
The application costs $465, which is used to fund the program and covers the cost of processing the requests and the background checks, he said. It also goes toward paying for the work permit authorization.
About 1.76 million people nationwide could be eligible for the program.
Cronkite News Service’s Meghan McCarthy contributed to this report.
TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.