PHOENIX — Supporters of young immigrants granted the right to stay in the
country by President Barack Obama are urging Gov. Jan Brewer to change her mind
and let them get driver’s licenses, citing new federal guidelines that clarify
that those in the program are legally in the country.
Democratic lawmakers were joined by several young immigrants at the state
Capitol on Tuesday to try to persuade the Republican governor to revoke her
order blocking licenses for those granted so-called deferred action. They argued
the Department of Homeland Security clarification late last week clears up any
concerns Brewer had about their legal status.
Brewer issued an executive order on Aug. 15 barring state agencies from
granting driver’s licenses and other benefits to those granted deferrals. Her
action came two months after Obama said he would defer deportations for people
younger than 30 who were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16. They will be
granted work permits and Social Security numbers, allowing them to live and work
in the U.S.
Brewer’s decision sparked a lawsuit by some people denied licenses. The case is
pending in federal court.
A Democratic lawmaker who proposed a bill that would permit those accepted into Obama’s program to get licenses said she does not think it will pass because of the Republican majority.
“It’s not going to get passed by both houses,” said Rep. Anna Tovar. “But I do feel that it’s the need and the wants of my constituents that are pushing me to file the bill.”
Tovar added that she hopes the bill creates a talking point for the governor.
Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said nearly 14,000 Arizonans have either
applied for or been granted deferred action. Friday’s clarification from
Homeland Security removes Brewer’s argument that they were not legal.
“She has what she needs now to do the right thing,” Quezada said. “Many,
many other states are already doing this, why is Arizona not? It’s not because
there’s a legal reason not to, it’s because it’s a political statement she’s
trying to make.”
Brewer spokesman Steve Benson said the governor and her lawyers were still
assessing the Homeland Security directive.
Elisa Vega, a 21-year-old Phoenix resident who was brought to the U.S. at age
4, said having a driver’s license is a critical need.
“It’s important to just basically get around everyday life, like if I have to
go to the store or if I have to find a job,” Vega said.
She also said it’s important for the general public, because allowing those
with deferred action to be licensed also means they can get insurance.
KTAR’s Bob McClay contributed to this report.