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Obama’s DREAM Act-lite runs into more trouble as Nebraska, Arizona go rogue

Nebraska has joined Arizona in opposing legal status for immigrants who are newly-documented under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, setting up a constitutional battle while raising tough questions about the program.

By Staff writer / August 18, 2012

Dulce Vazquez signs a pledge on the back of her sister Bibiana Vazquez as protestors denounce Gov. Jan Brewer's executive order to deny driver's licenses and other public benefits to young illegal immigrants who obtain work authorizations under a new Obama administration policy, Thursday in Phoenix.

Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic/AP

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Atlanta

Two days after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer declared her state won’t confer driver’s licenses and other state benefits to newly-documented immigrants under Obama’s “deferred action” immigration policy, Nebraska, too, put its foot down.

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Echoing Gov. Brewer, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) said on Saturday that Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program does not make successful applicants “legal citizens,” meaning they remain ineligible for state benefits like driver’s licenses and other services.

The deferred action plan, which took effect on Wednesday, could make as many as 1.7 illegal immigrants eligible for “deferred action” status, meaning they’re eligible to receive work papers and driver’s licenses. Applicants have to be no more than 31 years old, must have arrived in the US before the age of 16, and have no major crimes on their record.

QUIZ: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

The opposition stances taken by Nebraska and Arizona seem to at least partially challenge federal law, specifically the 2005 Real ID Act, which lists “deferred action” recipients as being eligible for driver’s licenses.

Experts, however, admit there are gray areas in the Real ID Act, especially as neither Arizona nor Nebraska lawmakers have ratified it. That means the moves by the two states amount to a “Constitutional throwdown,” according to Michael Olivas, an immigration law expert at the University of Houston, who also suggests the driver’s license ban is “just sheer political pandering to largely nativist and restrictionist forces.”

But as legal battles loom, the moves by the two governors do have the potential to more immediately undermine Obama’s new immigration policy.

Indeed, state opposition isn’t the only concern for applicants. While thousands lined up this week for help to apply, some Hispanic groups are concerned that immigration authorities may – despite the President’s orders and assurances of anonymity – use the information to find and deport family members. It’s not clear whether the program would continue if Mitt Romney wins the presidency.

Nebraska and Arizona likely have over 100,000 eligible illegal immigrants within their borders.

The move by Brewer drew sharp rebukes from some legal scholars, activists, and Democratic lawmakers.

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