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Gov. Jan Brewer, Arizona's loose cannon

She has no justification for denying driver's licenses to young immigrants who get temporary permits under a federal program.

May 29, 2013|By The Times editorial board
  • Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is in federal court defending her 2012 executive order denying driver's licenses to young immigrants who have been granted temporary protection from deportation by the Obama administration. Above. Brewer is seen giving her State of the State address in January.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is in federal court defending her 2012 executive… (Ross Franklin / Associated…)

Apparently, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer feels she just hasn't yet done enough to tarnish her state's reputation. After defiantly defending SB 1070, the noxious Arizona law that sought to bully immigrants into leaving the state — only to have the U.S. Supreme Court strike down the bulk of it — she is now waging a new fight against immigrants.

Brewer is back in federal court, this time defending her 2012 executive order denying driver's licenses to young immigrants who have been granted temporary protection from deportation by the Obama administration. The governor's order is intended, by her own admission, to undermine the president's decision last year to provide temporary permits for people brought to this country illegally as children, so they can live and work here as part of a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In most states, immigrants who qualify for the program can also obtain driver's licenses.

But not in Arizona, where Brewer ordered the state's motor vehicle department to reject applications for licenses by people who rely on federally issued employment authorization as proof of their legal status. The governor insists that those young immigrants aren't legally permitted to be in the United States and are therefore ineligible for any state benefits, including a driver's license. Brewer's order, however, contradicts the state's policy. As it turns out, Arizona has been accepting the same documentation for years that she now argues is invalid. Between 2005 and 2013, state officials allowed more than 47,000 people to obtain driver's licenses based on such employment authorization documents.

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This month, U.S. District Judge Donald G. Campbell declined to issue an injunction halting Brewer's executive order. But he did conclude that a coalition of civil rights groups will most likely win its case. The coalition argues that Arizona's driver's license policy is discriminatory because it treats some immigrants who qualify for deferred action differently from others, without any legal justification — because Brewer doesn't like the president's policies.

Brewer will no doubt continue with this senseless fight. That's a shame. The only thing she will achieve from a prolonged trial is to make life more difficult for people who arrived in this country illegally through no fault of their own — and in the process do further damage to Arizona's reputation.

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