ACLU challenges Arizona’s executive order on federal immigration program

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer

The American Civil Liberties Union is denouncing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s executive order on Aug. 15 that bars undocumented immigrants who qualify for temporary legal status in the United States from receiving state or local public benefits.

Brewer issued the order in response to the Obama administration’s implementation of an immigration policy of deferred action on deportation for young and undocumented immigrants. To be eligible for the federal program, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living in the country at least five years and are in school or graduated or served in the military. They cannot have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat.

Brewer’s order denies state or local benefits to immigrants applying under the new federal immigration rules. The order bars them from obtaining an Arizona driver's license or a state-issued identification card.

Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said in a statement on Aug. 16 that “Brewer is distorting federal law and inaccurately interpreting state law.”

She said, “This order conflicts with state and federal law because people who are granted deferred action will, in fact, have authorized presence in the United States and under Arizona law people who have authorized presence are eligible to apply for Arizona state identification.”

The ACLU has sued the governor over the state’s anti-immigrant law.

Soler said Brewer, with her latest order, is “perpetuating the myth that deferred action applicants are somehow submitting fraudulent documents and that is completely false. Not only is she singling out young people who are eligible for deferred action, but she also is excluding other categories of non-citizens who are authorized to be in the country, including victims of domestic violence, from obtaining state-identification while their immigration applications are being processed.”

A spokesman for Brewer told the Arizona Republic, “As the (Department of Homeland Security) has said repeatedly ... these individuals do not have lawful status. They are able to remain in the country and not be deported, and not be prosecuted, but they do not have lawful status.”