Ariz. House takes up debate on licenses for immigrants

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Democrats want to grant driver's licenses to immigrants granted legal status by President Barack Obama.

Sponsored by Democratic Rep. Catherine Miranda, House Bill 2032 says immigrants who have obtained federally issued employment authorization should also be able to legally drive in Arizona.

A House committee on Wednesday heard from proponents of the bill without voting on it. Supporters say Arizona's roads will be safer if more people had driver's licenses.

House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Karen Fann says the bill endorsed by immigration reform proponents is not ready for a vote until federal courts rule on Obama's immigration changes.
Fann says Obama acted unconstitutionally by bypassing Congress and announcing that people brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 could apply for work permits and Social Security numbers.  

The Transportation Committee heard from proponents of the bill Thursday.

Arizona law does not allow drivers without satisfactory proof of legal status to obtain a license. The Department of Homeland Security issued a memo in January that said young immigrants granted "deferred action" status are legally in the country. 

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has issued an executive order barring state agencies from granting driver's licenses to those granted deferral.

Brewer's order denying benefits for people who qualify for the deferred deportation policy was criticized by advocates as cold-hearted, misguided and legally questionable.

Brewer said her order was intended to make sure that state agencies adhere to the intent of state laws denying public benefits to illegal immigrants. But she also said she's against changing those state laws to allow public benefits for people qualifying for deferred deportation.

"No, I believe people ought to be here legally and they ought to be here with a lawful presence," she said.

AP writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report.