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Arizona is not Nebraska for immigration reform

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Arizona is not Nebraska for immigration reform

Driving by a heavy retail and residential area the other day, I was somewhat surprised to come across a healthy patch of corn growing in a nearby field.

“This must be Nebraska,” I said to myself.

Of course I know Arizona is no Nebraska.

Nebraska, after all, recently voted to override its governor’s veto, thereby becoming the last state in the union to grant driver’s licenses to qualifying undocumented immigrants protected by a 2012 presidential executive action.

Arizona, which stood with Nebraska in the cornfield of contentiousness as the last two holdout states prior to a federal appeals court ruling last summer, is still shucking and jiving.

Not taking no for an answer, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed an appeal seeking to overturn the permanent injunction, which in essence upheld driver’s licenses to be granted to many “DREAMers” who qualified under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals.

Prior to a trade mission this month to Mexico, Gov. Doug Ducey issued a proclamation and vowed to “review” the executive order issued in 2012 by his predecessor, Gov. Jan Brewer, that denied driver’s licenses to DACA individuals.

It was later explained by Ducey’s spokesman that review doesn’t mean rescind. Instead, our governor will wait until a higher court can rule on Arizona’s appeal on a policy that otherwise appears to be settled.

That puts us squarely back in the cornfield. True, it’s a small cornfield but we don’t require much plot since no other state stands with us on this point – not even Nebraska, with its unicameral Legislature voting 34-10 to override Gov. Pete Ricketts’ roadblock to driver’s licenses for DREAMers.

No such legislative vote is scheduled or expected in Arizona.

As it now stands, due to last year’s injunction, Arizona DREAMers can get driver’s licenses unless and until a federal court says otherwise.

In Nebraska, an estimated 2,700 young immigrants can now apply for driving privileges.

In Arizona, so far an estimated 10,300 young immigrants have received driver’s licenses since the judge lifted the governor’s ban – even though nearly 10 times that many DREAMers have received federal work permits in Arizona.

Why the underwhelming response?

There can be many reasons for this: Some DREAMers don’t drive, some don’t have cars, some may have failed the test or some simply may not yet be ready to apply for a driver’s license. But another reason could be Arizona’s trademark go-it-alone stance on this and other punitive policies against undocumented immigrants. This could be acting as a deterrent, intentional or not.

Fear is a great fertilizer – if not for corn, certainly for inertia.

The bigger problem, of course, is that most states and countries – including coveted trade partner Mexico, which is being courted by Ducey – can smell cow manure a mile away, and often steer clear of it.

Nebraska, we are not. Not anymore.

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

The director of communications for the Morrison Institute of Public Policy at ASU, Garcia is a longtime, award-winning journalist whose experience as a top editor, columnist and reporter included positions at The Arizona Republic, The Daily Times, Tucson Citizen, USA Today and The Associated Press.

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