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Updated Aug 16, 2012, 12:57 pm Originally posted Aug 16, 2012, 12:31 pm
Democratic legislators criticized Gov. Jan Brewer's move to deny drivers licenses to young illegal immigrants granted relief from deportation in a Thursday press release.
"The governor is using her elected position to grandstand at the expense of finding real solutions to the issues our state is facing," said state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell.
"This executive order just highlights her commitment to an extremist agenda," he said.
Brewer issued an executive order Wednesday, barring state agencies from offering benefits for illegal immigrants who qualify for the program. Drivers licenses and other state ID are covered under the order.
But at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Brewer admitted, "It actually is no different than what was already in place." Arizona law already bars illegal immigrants from becoming licensed drivers.
That didn't keep Arizona Democrats from blasting Brewer's move.
"This is the type of political theater we sadly have come to expect from the governor," said state House Minority Whip Anna Tovar.
"This executive order undoubtedly will be challenged in court," Tovar said. "The state will be forced to use taxpayer dollars to defend the governor’s poor choices. She should be focused on creating jobs and improving education, not squandering the state’s time and money to promote her extremist agenda."
A Southern Arizona congressman joined in criticizing Brewer's move.
"As Gov. Brewer knows very well, this order violates federal standards," said U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva. "It will be ruled unconstitutional after a lengthy legal process that costs our taxpayers even more money."
"I don’t know what it’s going to take for her to realize that states don’t get to ignore federal law," Grijalva said. "When seventy three percent of Arizonans support the DREAM Act, you can’t even accuse her of playing politics. She’s just being herself, hurting our economy and pulling families apart to please a small minority of the population."
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 perpetuating the myth that deferred action applicants are somehow submitting fraudulent documents and that is completely false," the ACLU's Alessandra Soler said Wednesday.
"Brewer is distorting federal law and inaccurately interpreting state law," said 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."
"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.
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.