Arizona Governor Jan Brewer [official website; JURIST news archive] issued an executive order [text, PDF] on Wednesday that instructs state agencies not to provide driver's licenses and other public benefits to undocumented immigrants who have gained the right to work under a new federal program known as Deferred Action [DHS memorandum; JURIST report]. Brewer's executive order rebuffs the Deferred Action program, a recent Obama administration policy that allows undocumented immigrants who served in the armed forces or have graduated high school, came to the US at a young age and are under 30 not to be deported. In her executive order, Brewer argued that the Deferred Action program does not grant legal status to undocumented immigrants and that she is enforcing current state law that denies public benefits to these immigrants:
State agencies that provide public benefits ... shall ... to the extent not prohibited by state or federal law, initiate operational, policy, rule and statutory changes necessary to prevent Deferred Action recipients from obtaining eligibility, beyond those available to any person regardless of lawful status, for any taxpayer-funded public benefits and state identification, including a driver's license, so that the intent of Arizona voters and lawmakers who enacted laws expressly restricting access to taxpayer funded benefits and state identification are enforced.The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Thursday criticized [press release] Brewer for allegedly distorting federal and state law.
The Deferred Action program has been the subject of controversy since the Obama administration initiated it in June. In July JURIST guest columnist Chris Schlag argued [JURIST op-ed] that while Deferred Action is a step in the right direction, comprehensive legislation is necessary to adequately address the complicated issue of immigration. In June Congressman Ben Quayle (R-AZ) [official website] introduced a bill [JURIST report] to block the Deferred Action program from taking effect. Earlier in June Congressman Steve King (R-IA) [official website] announced that he plans to sue the Obama administration [JURIST report] to delay the enforcement of the Deferred Action program.