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Arizona's Brewer points another finger at Obama

August 16, 2012|By Sandra Hernandez
  • Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has had her share of differences with President Obama on immigration issues.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has had her share of differences with President… (Haraz N. Ghanbari / Associated…)

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer can’t seem to stay out of the national spotlight when it comes to immigration issues.

This week, Brewer signed an executive order instructing state officials to deny driver’s licenses and other benefits to young undocumented immigrants who are granted temporary legal status under a new federal program know as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Under the program, some undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children, and who meet certain requirements, can obtain temporary waivers from deportation and can get work permits. The federal government began accepting applications Wednesday; up to 1.7 million students and military veterans could qualify.

Brewer's spokesman told the Arizona Republic that President Obama “doesn’t have the authority to snap his fingers and grant lawful status or lawful presence to people here unlawfully. That’s not possible.”

And yet it seems that previous administration have taken similar steps and exercised discretion to temporarily stave off deportations of immigrants. For example, in 2007, President George W. Bush halted the deportation of Liberians, whose country was emerging from a civil war. 

But the real question is whether Brewer has the legal authority to issue a directive that defies the federal government. The Real ID Act, a federal law, makes it clear that certain immigrants, including those granted deferred action, should be eligible for driver’s licenses.

And there is another problem. Brewer's order creates a huge headache for state agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, which now face the unenviable task of figuring out a way to determine who is eligible for services or benefits. That won’t be easy because other groups of immigrants also receive deferred action from deportation. So how will a DMV employee know who should be granted a license or state identification? No word yet from the governor on how those thorny issues should be resolved.

What is clear is that just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted most of the state's notorious immigration law, Arizona is almost guaranteed to wind up back in court over yet another immigration matter.

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