Arizona governor defies new Obama immigration policy

Arizona Gov. Brewer defies new Obama immigration policy.

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Arizona Governor Jan Brewer ordered state officials yesterday to withhold state benefits such as drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants that have been recently granted temporary amnesty by President Obama, according to Time magazine.

The President’s executive order, which went into effect Wednesday, allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States prior to their 16th birthday to essentially come out of hiding by deferring action on their deportation for two years and allowing them the ability to work legally in the United States. According to the White House blog, the deferral is renewable, but does not offer a path to permanent residency or citizenship.

Gov. Brewer’s action will make it difficult, if not impossible for young undocumented immigrants to work in Arizona, and is in line with her administration’s stance on illegal immigration. Gov. Brewer made waves in 2010 when her state passed a law that made it a misdemeanor for an immigrant to be in Arizona without carrying proper documentation. The law was partially struck down by the Supreme Court, but the law’s provision to allow law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of persons they stop or arrest was upheld.

The latest tussle between the federal government and Arizona may be a preview of the immigration reform debate that the Congress and the President have been pressed to have. Although President Obama promised to enact sweeping immigration reform during his 2008 campaign, he has yet to do so, despite pressure from immigration activists.

In Congress, a recalcitrant GOP has resisted taking up the issue as well, despite it being previously touted by 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain during the election. Legislation such as the proposed DREAM Act, which would have given young undocumented immigrants a chance at higher education and eventual amnesty has gone nowhere, despite being co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). When former GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry defended Texas’ version of the DREAM Act during a primary debate, he was roundly panned by the party base.

With his political capital spent on health care reform, President Obama has been rolling out a steady stream of directives based on his executive authority to serve as stopgap measures. He has ordered that that immigration officials give highest priority to undocumented immigrants with violent criminal records and that they stop processing the deportations of the estimated 80,000 DREAM Act-eligible undocumented immigrants.

This latest response by Gov. Brewer to the President’s executive order will likely spur a bevy of lawsuits, but it appears that the Arizona governor, focused on making a point about illegal immigration, does not care. Until Congress and the President have a full-on debate about immigration reform though, it appears that this type of stop-and-go immigration relief is the best that undocumented immigrants and activists can hope for.

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