Why 20,000 immigrants will seek driver's licenses in Arizona

 A U.S. District Judge ruled that the state cannot enforce Gov. Jan Brewer's policy of denying the licenses to about 20,000 immigrants. 

(AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle)
Dulce Matuz, right, president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition denounces 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, August 2012 in Phoenix.

Many young immigrants who are protected from deportation under new Obama administration policies are expected Monday to begin pursuing Arizona driver's licenses.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said it is anticipating a rush of immigrant applicants in the weeks ahead at Motor Vehicle Division offices statewide,

A preliminary injunction issued Dec. 18 by U.S. District Judge David Campbell bars the state from enforcing Gov. Jan Brewer's policy of denying the licenses to about 20,000 immigrants.

The injunction carries out instructions issued in July by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The governor has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review her appeal of the 9th Circuit decision.

Despite her belief that issuing licenses is a state matter, Brewer's office confirmed she would comply. The move in Arizona to deny the licenses was a reaction to steps taken by the Obama administration in June 2012 to shield thousands of immigrants from deportation.

ADOT officials said they will start processing driver's license and identification card applications from qualified immigrants. Recipients who fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, known as DACA, will get a credential formatted like any Arizona driver's license or identification card.

The move by Obama applied to people younger than 30 who came to the U.S. before turning 16 and have been in the country for at least five continuous years, They also must be enrolled in or have graduated from a high school or GED program, or have served in the military. Applicants also are allowed to pursue a two-year renewable work permit.

Brewer issued her executive order in August 2012 directing state agencies to deny driver's licenses and other public benefits to immigrants who get work authorization under the deferred-action program. Her move marked the nation's most visible challenge to the Obama policy.

Nebraska is the only other state to have made similar denials, and a federal judge this year dismissed a lawsuit contesting that state's policy.

In 2012, California passed a law to issue licenses to illegal immigrants eligible for work permits under the Obama administration's policy. The bill required the department to accept as proof of legal residence whatever document the federal government provides to participants in its deferred action program.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported:  "The willingness of states to increasingly accommodate drivers who lack legal status portends a changing political climate, says Audrey Singer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.

Young men and women who were brought into the country as minors have generated strong support, and "the last presidential election put a lot of pressure on the Republican Party to get serious about changing the immigration policy of the country," she adds"

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