Democratic lawmaker: Allow licenses for deferred action participants
PHOENIX - A Democratic state representative is taking a swipe at Gov. Jan Brewer's executive order preventing illegal immigrants taking part in the Obama administration's deferred action program from receiving Arizona driver's licenses.
HB 2032, authored by Rep. Catherine H. Miranda, D-Phoenix, would require the Arizona Department of Transportation to accept federally issued work permits as proof of lawful presence in the U.S.
"It's a reminder to the Arizona Department of Transportation and our governor that they cannot discriminate against DREAMers when issuing driver's licenses or any IDs for that matter," Miranda said.
Announced in June, the program allows certain illegal immigrants to receive a renewable two-year work visa and deferred deportation.
Among other provisions, it applies to those who were younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012, and were younger than 16 when they came to the U.S. Participants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED or been honorably discharged from a U.S. military branch. They must not have committed any felonies or criminal misdemeanors.
Brewer's executive order, issued in August, declared that qualifying for deferred action doesn't translate to lawful or authorized presence in the country. It said participants should be denied access to driver's licenses and other state benefits that weren't defined.
Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi and Nebraska have announced that deferred action participants won't qualify for driver's licenses, while 17 states including California have said they will, according to the Pew Center on the States.
Miranda said the Brewer's order was a continuation of years of anti-immigration laws and decisions made by Republicans in the state government.
"They're now at the road where they're going to have to make a decision and realize that it is about our economy," Miranda said. "It's about jobs and education."
Several messages left with media contacts in Brewer's office weren't returned.
Miranda said she isn't confident that the bill will get far, but she said it can draw attention to an important issue.
"It's a beginning discussion for a strong discussion," she said.
Miranda said that while working as an administrator in several Phoenix school districts she met and mentored many students whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally.
"There's so many DREAMers that have 3.5, 4.0 GPAs," Miranda said. "We can't afford to put obstacles in front of them."
Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, said denying licenses to individuals in the deferred action program violates fundamental principles of fairness.
"By having deferred action, we have a work permit, we have a Social Security number," Matuz said. "What is the message that we're sending to our young individuals? You're good enough to get a job, but you're not good enough to drive."
Brandy Baron, a member of the Latino Legal Immigrant Tea Party Patriots, marched outside the Capitol on the first day of the legislative session Monday with a sign reading "No driver's licenses for illegal immigrants" on one side and "We're watching you" on the other.
"I don't want illegals driving on our roads," she said. "They didn't obey our immigration laws; what makes people think they'll obey our driving laws? What makes anyone think they'll obey any of our laws?"