Brewer bars public benefits for illegal immigrants

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Governor Jan Brewer on Wednesday issued an executive order barring state agencies from issuing benefits or drivers licenses to young immigrants who are granted a reprieve from deportation under a new federal policy.

The executive order came on the same day that the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services department began accepting applications for the deferred action program and touched off a wave of disappointment among young immigrants who began the day celebrating.

"I don't think it's right what she did, I think it's her way of stealing the spotlight," said Edar Rosas, a 26 year old undocumented immigrant.

Rosas was among a large group that marched to the State Capitol Wednesday night to express disappointment. They planned to stay overnight.

Brewer said she issued the order after getting questions from various state agencies about whether benefits would be granted to immigrants who obtain work authorization under the deferred action plan.

"There were questions about what agencies would do, so we just made it perfectly clear so there would be no misunderstanding," Brewer said. "Actually it's no different than what's already in place, no drivers' licenses to illegal people, and no benefits."

While the program never came with a promise of any government benefits, the majority of young applicants in Arizona were under the assumption a work permit would have enabled them to get a driver's license.

"It was just complete shock because if you are allowed to have your work permit, why would you not be able to have your license? We need to get to our jobs," said Dulce Vasquez, who plans to apply for the program later this week.
 
Immigration attorneys say Brewer's order may contradict current state policy on state identification.

"It's pretty inconsistent for the Governor to issue this order" said Regina Jeffries, who chairs the Arizona Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association

Jeffries says while Brewer is correct in saying the state does not grant licenses to those with unlawful presence, individuals granted deferred action will actually have authorized presence.

Political opponents wasted no time accusing the Governor of political grandstanding in issuing the order.

"By issuing an executive order with questionable impact, Governor Brewer has shown again that she'll jump at the chance to grandstand for political attention, but she is not at all interested in finding real solutions to immigration," Senate Minority Leader David Schapira said in a statement.

Brewer denied any political posturing and said she was merely doing her job to clarify policy for state agencies.

The order directs state agencies which issue public benefits and state-issued identification to start any necessary emergency rule making to address the issue.