Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stirs a new immigration policy controversy

10:16 AM, Aug 16, 2012   |    comments
Young immigrants, along with members of local immigrant organizations, line up for guidance for a new federal program, called Deferred Action, Aug. 15, 2012, in Phoenix.
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In Arizona, which passed one of the nation's toughest anti-immigration laws, Gov. Jan Brewer signed an executive order Wednesday directing state agencies to deny driver's licenses and other public benefits to illegal immigrants who obtain work authorizations under a new federal program.  

Gov. Brewer said the federal program doesn't give immigrants legal status and she's following the intent of the current state law denying public benefits to them.

To be eligible for the federal program, called "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living in the country at least five years and are in school or graduated or served in the military. They cannot have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat.

Initial concerns that federal authorities might take a tough approach on applications or that a Republican presidential victory could unravel applicants' gains have largely been pushed aside by massive interest from thousands of young people eager to work, except in Arizona, where the law is estimated to affect around 80,000 people.

A spokesman for Gov. Brewer told the Arizona Republic that Brewer's order is intended to cut through the confusion created by the act.

"As the (Department of Homeland Security) has said repeatedly ... these individuals do not have lawful status," Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson told the Republic. "They are able to remain in the country and not be deported, and not be prosecuted, but they do not have lawful status."

The Arizona DREAM Act Coalition said by signing the executive order, Gov. Brewer was "bullying defenseless young people."

"We are saddened that Governor Brewer is siding with the past, against progress, against young people and the general support the DREAM Act has in the general population," Dulce Matuz, Arizona DREAM Act Coalition (ADAC) chair said in a statement.

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