9/23/2012 3:21:00 PM Arizona won't issue licenses to illegal immigrants
PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona officials will not issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants granted work permits under President Barack Obama's deferred-action program, an official with the state's licensing agency said.
The decision by the Arizona Department of Transportation is consistent with Gov. Jan Brewer's Aug. 15 executive order telling state agencies to deny driver's licenses and other benefits to those granted deferrals. ADOT's decision was confirmed by department spokesman Tim Tait late Friday.
The decision angered advocates who believe illegal immigrants granted deferred action should be able to get licenses so they can legally drive to work or school.
Tait said Arizona law allows only legal residents to get a driver's license or identification cards.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have repeatedly stated that deferred action doesn't grant legal status.
Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" program on June 15 and the first approvals came earlier this month. The program provides work permits and Social Security cards to young people brought to the U.S. illegally.
The state may face a lawsuit from civil-rights groups who say preventing illegal immigrants granted deferred action from getting driver's licenses violates state law.
"Their policy violates state law, Regina Jefferies, a Phoenix lawyer who chairs the Arizona chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said. "Very clearly, state law allows people with a work permit and a Social Security number to get a driver's license. They can be sued, and I am sure that is what will happen."
In a written statement, Tait cited Homeland Security's statements to justify not issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants granted work permits under the program. The agency already accepts work permits issued to illegal immigrants for other reasons, including because they are crime victims or witnesses.
Arizona law requires that only people living in the country legally can be issued a driver's license or identification card, Tait said in the statement. Since U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials have said deferred action does not give illegal immigrants legal status, their work permits "are insufficient for the purpose of obtaining an Arizona driver license or identification card," he said.