Something’s Brewer-ing

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Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, will do a lot of things, but give up her feud with the federal government? Not on your life.

Last month Brewer ordered state agencies to withhold driver’s licenses and other state benefits from young, undocumented immigrants applying for President Obama’s just-launched deportation deferrals. Brewer’s angst was a ploy, some are saying, to protest Obama’s lenient stance on the status of immigrants.

The President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which went into effect in mid-August, makes way for millions of undocumented immigrants, brought to America as youngsters, to sign up for a two-year deportation deferral. The deferral offers additional permissions, including help with college tuition and renewed eligibility for work permits.

But not, if Brewer has her way, in Arizona. The Governor, who has labeled the president’s program “an illegal backdoor amnesty,” is hanging her argument on the Real ID Act, a federal law which Congress enacted to protect “deferred action” recipients, making them eligible for new driver’s licenses. The act, passed in 2005, was rejected by Arizona; Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, who would be charged with overseeing DACA, has publicly fought for the repeal of Real ID.

Brewer wants more. Undocumented immigrants, she says, “are here illegally and unlawfully in the state of Arizona,” which should preclude their being issued driver’s licenses. The amnesty plan, the Governor told a media crowd at an August press conference, “doesn’t make illegal immigrants legally here.”

What it does do, she says, is amplify concerns about the kind of protection these immigrants will get once they apply for the new program. And it allows – at least if Brewer’s opposition leads to anything – Arizona to remain in the lead in the anti-illegal immigration movement, and to dovetail with the Supreme Court’s ruling on SB1070, which validated the constitutionality of the provision that allows police officers to ask for identification from those suspected of being illegally in the country.

It’s expected that the White House will block any efforts to withhold benefits from successful DACA applicants, and will argue that the policy is legal because the mechanisms for it are already in place and require no new bureaucracy or funding to implement. In the meantime, Brewer continues to challenge the federal government with policies that focus not only on the issue of immigration reform and the legality of the President’s agenda, but on whether he’s worthy of re-election.

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