Gov. Brewer's executive order raises questions about driver's licenses

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Governor Jan Brewer ignited a firestorm Wednesday when she signed an executive order making it seemingly impossible for so-called dreamers to get a driver’s license in the wake of President Obama’s deferred action program. 

“Deferred action by the president confers neither lawful status or lawful presence on and individual,” said Matthew Benson, the Governor’s spokesperson.

The Governor said that is why she issued an executive order on the issue.

“Certainly we have issues here in Arizona we are concerned about in regards to driver's licenses people in the state unlawfully and public benefits,” said Brewer.

Immigration attorneys agree that those dreamers who apply for the President's deferred action program will not be eligible for any public benefits.  But Regina Jefferies, chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said driver's licenses are a different story.

“Individuals with deferred action are not unlawfully present they are in an authorized period of stay,” said Jefferies.

The President's deferred action program will likely give some 80,000 Arizonans brought into the country illegally as children a two year reprieve from deportation.

“For individuals granted deferred action they will get a work permit along with that status,” said Jefferies.

They can then apply for a social security card.

“We will issue a work authorization card to those people that apply but they will not be entitled to a driver's license,” said Brewer.

State law is clear that no driver’s license will be issued to anyone who is here unlawfully.

But immigration attorney Regina Jefferies believes this deferred action will make these dreamers lawful, even if only for two years.  And based on state law and the MVD requirements, many of these young people will then be eligible for a drivers license.

“If someone is lawfully present in the U.S. and presents an employment authorization document and possibly a social security card they are eligible to receive an Arizona state driver’s license,” said Jefferies.

However, the Governor's office is confident this deferred action will create a new class of people and their work permit will have a different notation so the MVD can legally differentiate.