On Aug. 15, thousands of Arizona’s undocumented kids– youngsters who were brought to the United States as children and had graduated from high school or college and had committed no crimes — began the process of signing up for “Deferred Action” under a special rule change granted by President Barack Obama. The new federal permits will allow them to live, and work, and study legally in the United States. But as the so-called “Dreamers” filled out the forms that would give them two-year permits to be in the United States, Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order denying them state driver licenses and state ID cards.
Jan Brewer Photo credit: Creative Commons/@ADLavinsky
In a nutshell, Brewer’s order denies Dreamers state identification cards or driver licenses, because she reasons, such kids remain in the country illegally even after they get their papers that say they are in the country legally.
The order also forbids the kids from receiving other state benefits not tied to the federal government, which amounts to, well, hardly anything.
Bottom line: Federal immigration officials will give Arizona Dreamers work permits and social security cards, but Brewer wants to discourage them from working by preventing them from driving to work.
And if Brewer is correct, if there really are 80,000 Dreamers in Arizona, wouldn’t it be wiser to encourage 80,000 kids to work and/or study in college and pay taxes to the state of Arizona for years to come?
Alessandra Soler, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, laid it out what she sees as the legal folly of Brewer’s order in an email Soler sent reporters this evening:
“Brewer is distorting federal law and inaccurately interpreting state law,” writes 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. .”
“She is perpetuating the myth that deferred action applicants are somehow submitting fraudulent documents and that is completely false. 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.”
Brewer is an astute politico, and her move signaled something large and something small.
Large: She gave a nod to voters uncomfortable with irreversible demographic changes in Arizona, and blind to the benefits of such changes.
Small: She also gave a not to herself. She’ll depend on these voters to buy her book and pay her speaking fees when she steps down from the governor’s office at the end of the year. Or when she gets a cabinet post if Romney wins.
But while Gov. Jan’s on the speaking circuit or in D.C., the fallout from her “executive order” will have to be hashed out in court.
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Bio: Journalist Terry Greene Sterling has lived in Arizona most of her life, and has reported on the political brawls and human tragedies that have long made Arizona the focus of national news. She was raised on an Arizona cattle ranch, and learned to speak Spanish at the same time she learned English. The author of Illegal, Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone, Sterling has been honored with more than 50 national and regional journalism awards. She was named Virg Hill Journalist of the Year, Arizona’s highest journalism honor, three times. She was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times for 14 years before branching out on her own. She is a contributor for The Daily Beast, and Writer-in-Residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, Newsweek.com, Salon.com, Rollingstone.com, The Nieman Narrative Digest, Phoenix Magazine, The Arizona Republic, Arizona Highways, High Country News, and Preservation Magazine. She tweets @tgsterling and blogs about immigration in Arizona at terrygreenesterling.com.