By Sandra Hernandez
November 29, 2012
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's antipathy toward the Obama's administration is evident: We've seen her wag her finger at the president on the tarmac, and we've seen her state defiantly defend a noxious state law that intrudes on the federal government's authority to regulate immigration.
Now it seems Brewer is renewing her fight with the administration, this time over the president's decision to grant some young undocumented immigrants temporary protection from deportation. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, those young immigrants who qualify can also obtain work permits. In most states, such work permits can also be used to apply for a driver’s license.
In August, Brewer instructed Arizona's Department of Motor Vehicles to deny driver’s licenses to young immigrants who qualified for deferred action, arguing that state law bars illegal immigrants from receiving any public benefits. The problem is that Brewer’s mean-spirited order may conflict with her state's policy. As it turns out, Arizona’s DMV has issued driver’s licenses in the past to other immigrants who were granted deferred action.
In fact, an investigation by the Arizona Republic found that “driver’s licenses, or in some cases state IDs, were issued more than 39,600 times since 2006 to non-citizens who presented federally issued employment authorization documents as primary ID to prove they are authorized to be in the U.S. under federal law.” Those are the same federally issued employment authorization documents now issued by the Obama administration as part of its deferred action program.
Thankfully, a coalition of civil rights groups are challenging Brewer’s misguided attempt to punish these young immigrants. The groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday arguing that Arizona’s policy once again interferes with the federal government’s sole authority to set immigration policy. The lawsuit also alleges that Brewer’s policy violates the Constitution's equal protection clause by singling out these young immigrants over others with near identical temporary status.
In the end, it will be up to a federal judge to decide whether Brewer is overstepping her authority and misconstruing the law. But surely her policy doesn’t further any state interest. Denying these young immigrants, who were brought to this country illegally by their parents, isn’t going to deter illegal immigration. Nor will it further public safety.
The only thing Brewer’s policy achieves is to earn her points with nativists and demonstrate the urgent need for immigration reform, including congressional approval of the Dream Act, which would provide these same young immigrants a permanent and legal right to live in the only country they have ever called home.