By Patrik Jonsson | Minn Post.com
Continuing a longstanding feud with the federal government, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday ordered state agencies to withhold driverâ€™s licenses and other state benefits from young illegal immigrants applying for the Obama administrationâ€™s new deportation deferrals. The decision marks a new chapter in the “constitutional throwdown” between the White House and states vowing to â€œget toughâ€ on illegal immigration.
President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which took effect Wednesday, allows as many as 2 million illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as children and meet several other criteria to apply for a two-year deportation deferral. The directive also makes them eligible for work permits and college tuition help.
But Governor Brewerâ€™s executive order â€” which could affect 80,000 people in Arizona â€“ points to challenges ahead.
It amplifies lingering questions about the kind of protection illegal immigrants will get as they apply for the new benefit, and whether coming forward could backfire if Mr. Obama loses his reelection campaign in November. Moreover, it suggests that conservatives are intent on pushing back as hard as they can against a program Brewer has defined as an illegal backdoor â€œamnesty.â€
Brewerâ€™s revolt centers around her attempt to defy a basic federal law, the Real ID Act, in which Congress listed â€œdeferred actionâ€ recipients as being eligible to receive driverâ€™s licenses. Real ID was passed in 2005 to improve license security after 9/11, but 20 states, including Arizona, continue to fight the law, saying it doesnâ€™t give enough leeway to states. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who will ultimately oversee DACA, fought for the repeal of Real ID in 2009, saying it had proved unworkable and unpopular.
The order â€œis an act of defiance and a constitutional throwdown,â€ says Michael Olivas, an immigration-law expert at the University of Houston. â€œThe fact is, there is no gray area as to deferred action. Once someone is given that, they have to be given a driverâ€™s license.â€
Brewer, who in January raised her finger to the presidentâ€™s face during a tense encounter on an Arizona airport runway, disagrees.
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