ACLU Sues Arizona for Refusing to Provide Driver's Licenses to Illegal Aliens
In its lawsuit, the ACLU challenges the executive order on two grounds. First, the complaint alleges that Governor Brewer's executive order is preempted by federal immigration law under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and
Second, the complaint alleges that Governor Brewer's executive order violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it treats other deferred action recipients and other classes of lawfully present grantees, like temporary protected status grantees, differently than the similarly situated DACA grantees. The complaint asks the federal court to declare Governor Brewer's executive order unconstitutional and preliminarily and permanently enjoin its enforcement.
Governor Brewer has defended her executive order as necessary to uphold an Arizona state law that prohibits the granting of state benefits to illegal aliens. Brewer reasons that because the DACA program "does not and cannot confer lawful or authorized status or presence upon the unlawful alien applicants," granting driver's licenses, i.e., a state benefit, to DACA grantees would violate Arizona law
The Obama Administration has yet to weigh in on the lawsuit, but earlier this year Administration officials reportedly stated that it is up to the states to decide whether to allow DACA grantees to receive driver's licenses. Similarly, Ian Grossman, vice president of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has stated, "[t]he consensus is that well, we have our rules of who's eligible for a license... At the end of the day, it's a state-issued document, and the state has the authority to determine who is eligible for that document."
GOP Senators Introduce New Version of DREAM Act
Last Tuesday, Republican Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced their version of the DREAM Act, which would grant amnesty to illegal aliens up to the age of thirty-two. Called the "ACHIEVE Act," S. 3639 creates a new, tiered nonimmigrant visa program, the W-visa, that puts illegal aliens on a path to a green card and subsequent citizenship.
Under the Republican plan, illegal aliens would be eligible for a W-1 visa if they:
Once an illegal alien receives a W-1 visa, the alien has six years to obtain a bachelor's, associate's, vocational/technical, or graduate degree, or to complete four years of military service. If the alien meets this threshold, the alien is then eligible for a W-2 visa. Under a W-2 visa, an alien must then either maintain employment for 36 months, or be enrolled in or complete a graduate degree program within four years.
Then, after the four-year period is up, an alien who has fulfilled the requirements of a W-2 visa becomes eligible for a W-3 "permanent nonimmigrant" visa. Although the authors of the ACHIEVE Act say it does not provide a special pathway to citizenship, the W-3 is renewable indefinitely in four-year increments, and its recipients are free to adjust status to a green card via pathways already set up under current law.
In addition to the above provisions, the bill creates a special path to a green card for aliens on a W-1 visa who have served four years in the military and are honorably discharged. Those aliens may bypass the W-2 and W-3 visa programs and directly apply for legal permanent residency through a process to be determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security in regulations.
Sens. Hutchison and Kyl said that Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio, who has been touting but not revealing his own plan for months, provided input on the proposed legislation. Rubio's spokesman, Alex Conant, confirmed that while the Senator supports the idea behind the ACHIEVE Act, he is still working on his own version. "Senator Rubio is still developing his own alternative to the Dream Act," said Conant. "[H]e intends to introduce it in the new Congress, once he is confident it will win broad bipartisan support and be signed into law."
The Illinois Senate Executive Committee approved a bill which would allow as many as 250,000 illegal aliens to receive an Illinois driver's license. The bill breezed through committee by a vote of 12-2 on Thursday. News reports indicate that SB 957 is likely to pass the full Senate next week. The bill would grant driving privileges to illegal aliens but prohibit the license from being used as a form of identification.
If passed, Senate Bill 957 would permit the state to issue temporary driver's licenses to illegal aliens who: (1) have lived in the state for at least one year and establish identity through either a consular ID or valid foreign passport. The bill further provides that a temporary driver's license would expire three years from the date of issuance shall not be accepted as a valid form of identification.
Some of Illinois' most prominent political leaders are pushing for passage of the bill as a way to "make the state's road's safer. Those in favor of providing illegal aliens with driving privileges include Governor Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Senate President John Cullerton, House Republican Leader Tom Cross and former governors Jim Edgar and James Thompson.
Other supporters claim the bill will increase the number of driver's with insurance. Advocate Ald. Danny Solis stated that, "Those people need to have a driver's license so they can have insurance so that when they are on our highways, and possibly get into an accident, everybody's protected." Opponents of granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens say not so and cite to the State of New Mexico — one of only two states that grants driver's licenses to illegal aliens —which has the second-highest rate of uninsured drivers in the United States.
Opponents of the bill argue that despite the bill's language, the temporary license would become a de facto form of identification. Senator Dale Righter pointed out the "Catch-22s" of the legislation in that, "You want to find out who it is you're dealing with, but that document's not supposed to be used to tell you who you're dealing with."
Granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens is bad public policy and repugnant to federal immigration law. It treats them as if they are legal residents and facilitates their continued illegal presence. Providing identification and driving privileges to illegal aliens only enables the illegal aliens to continue to live, work, and vote in states unlawfully.
If SB 957 becomes law, Illinois would be one of three states that provide driver's licenses to illegal aliens — along with New Mexico and Washington State. California also recently passed a law to allow illegal aliens who are granted deferred action under the Obama Administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program to obtain California driver's licenses.
The Illinois Senate is expected to vote on SB 957 next week. If it passes, it will be sent to the state House, which will likely take up the measure in early January.
Earlier this month, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) challenged the Obama Administration's decision to award Social Security Numbers to alien beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In a letter to Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Michael Astrue, Rep. Gingrey wrote: "[I]t is still unclear what level of documentation will be required and what level of background checks are being conducted on the documents and the applicants. Due to this ambiguity, I call into question the wisdom of providing Social Security numbers to these petitioners," the letter reads.
The letter asks the Commissioner a series of questions intended to shed light on the Administration's process of handing out SSNs to illegal aliens under DACA.
The Obama Administration has asked for an extension of its November 30 response deadline as requested in the letter. As of November 15, Georgia ranks ninth among states for the highest number of illegal aliens applying for backdoor amnesty under the program.
Washington – Democratic leaders of both houses of Congress on Wednesday presented the nine principles that should guide comprehensive immigration reform they say will contribute to the economic recovery.
During a press conference in the Capitol, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus insisted that immigration reform is cannot be postponed any longer, adding that during the 113th Congress is the perfect time to bring undocumented foreign residents out of the shadows.
An overhaul of immigration law would increase the U.S. gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a long-time leader on the issue, said the next Congress offers "an historic opportunity to help immigrants."
"We can - and should - make history in this session of Congress by passing comprehensive immigration reform," he said.
The nine principles put forward Wednesday include the registration of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants; protection of immigrant families to prevent their separation; legalization of undocumented students and visas for agricultural guest workers.
To register, undocumented people would have to provide their fingerprints, pay taxes and learn English, although those who have criminal records will be subject to deportation.
When asked by Efe about why instead of principles they did not present a bill on the matter, Menendez said that they preferred to begin in "good faith" with a bipartisan process to start the debate with "an extended hand" rather than a clenched fist.
Republicans, who have opposed anything that smacks of an amnesty, now are promoting their own plan, which does not include a path to legalization.
The defeat of Mitt Romney at the polls has forced the Republican Party to redesign its immigration stance, well aware that it lost the Hispanic vote in part because it opposed immigration reform.
On Tuesday, GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona presented a bill that will permit certain undocumented students to legally remain in the United States if they enroll in a university or enlist in the Armed Forces.
That bill is a watered-down version of the DREAM Act, which was buried in the Senate in 2010.
On Meet the Press Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) are resuming negotiations on "comprehensive" immigration reform legislation. "Sen. Graham and I have talked and we are resuming the talks that were broken off two years ago," said Schumer.
Speaking to NBC host David Gregory, Sen. Schumer, who is chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, seemed convinced that Republicans are now willing to work with Democrats to pass an amnesty for illegal aliens. He also said he anticipates his "blueprint" to be the framework for it. "Graham and I are talking to our colleagues about this right now and I think we have a darn good chance using this blueprint to get something done this year," said Schumer. "The Republican Party has learned that being anti-illegal and anti-immigrant doesn't work for them politically and they know it."
Meanwhile, Senator Lindsay Graham made a similar pitch for "comprehensive" immigration reform on the CBS show Face the Nation. Using recent election results as the reason, Graham attempted to justify renewed amnesty negotiations. "This is an odd formula for a party to adopt," said Graham, "the fastest-growing demographic in the country, and we're losing votes every election cycle. And it has to stop. It's one thing to shoot yourself in the foot. Just don't reload the gun." While Senator Graham stated that an immigration bill would have to take a "backseat" to addressing the impending "fiscal cliff," he nevertheless signaled his commitment to moving forward amnesty legislation. "I intend to tear this wall down and pass an immigration reform bill that's an American solution to an American problem."
The Schumer-Graham outline for amnesty legislation includes the basic components of all "comprehensive" immigration reform legislation to-date: amnesty, some border security provisions, mandatory E-Verify, and a massive increase in guest workers. Different from previous amnesty bills, however, the outline also includes that all aliens receive a biometric identification card to help establish their identity.
Once the Schumer-Graham outline is turned into actual legislation, it's unclear how quickly the Senate will move on it. Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid (R-NV) has promised that amnesty legislation will be high on the agenda of Senate Democrats. But it remains to be seen how much Democrats intend to consult the rank-and-file of their own party, and whether the Senate Republicans will offer any resistance to undermining the rule of law and granting amnesty and work authorization to nearly 12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, one of the most hard-line members of Congress on immigration, now says that comprehensive reform – which includes a pathway to legalization for the undocumented -- will be a priority in 2013. For years, Boehner, an Ohio Republican who placed some of the House's most controversial immigration hawks in leadership positions on the committee overseeing the issue, said that under no circumstances would Congress consider comprehensive immigration reform. "This issue has been around far too long," Boehner said in an interview Thursday with ABC News' "World News." ''A comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I'm confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all."Boehner’s vow to prioritize overhauling the immigration system is significant.
It comes from someone in a key position to block, or facilitate, efforts in Congress to take up a reform bill. And it’s an indication of how the highest ranking Republicans are absorbing Latinos’ role in President Obama’s re-election as a clear message that they must be willing to compromise on issues of importance to them. More than 70 percent of Hispanic voters supported Obama, who has been more open to comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.
"I'm not talking about a 3,000-page bill," Boehner said at a Friday press conference. "What I'm talking about is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws and fix a broken immigration system." Two years ago, Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said that under no circumstances would Congress consider comprehensive immigration reform. Boehner, who in his position at the helm wields considerable influence over how far a bill can get in the House, and even whether an issue gets attention in committees and on the floor, has been among the most hard-line members of Congress on immigration.
If people want to become citizens, they need to do it the right way. Go home, sign up, get in line like everybody else...Our schools, our hospitals, are being overrun by illegal immigrants.
- House Speaker John Boehner, Republican, in 2010 interview
Boehner has vigorously opposed any pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants. He voted against the DREAM Act, which would have allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors a way to legalize as long as they meet a strict set of criteria. Boehner supports amending the 14th Amendment to deny the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants automatic citizenship. He said many immigrants "come here so that their children can become U.S. citizens." And he wants to reinforce border security, including putting “boots on the ground,” as he said to reporters years ago.
Asked in a 2010 interview with The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review if he supports any measure that would provide a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants, Boehner said firmly: “I don’t, no.”“If people want to become citizens, they need to do it the right way,” Boehner said. “Go home, sign up, get in line like everybody else.”“Our schools, our hospitals, are being overrun by illegal immigrants,” he said. He dismissed outright any notion that comprehensive immigration reform would arise for discussion in the House under his watch. Indeed, Boehner's appointees to the House's top leadership posts on immigration committees included ultra-conservatives such as Reps. Lamar Smith of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, and Elton Gallegly of California.
“There is not a chance that immigration is going to move to the Congress,” Boehner said. “The American people will not let us look at any kind of broader immigration bill until they’re convinced we have the ability to do what we say we’re going to do.”Earlier this year, when fellow Republican, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, tried to float a proposal that was dubbed a “conservative alternative” to the DREAM Act, Boehner helped quash it. The senator’s bill would have legalized certain young people who came to the United States while they were children by granting non-immigrant visas so they could remain in the U.S. for college or to serve in the military.
Considered by Rubio and some more moderate Republicans as an olive branch of sorts to Hispanics on the important issue of immigration, Boehner torpedoed the plan. He told reporters that the plan did not stand a chance of passing in the GOP-led House.“I found it of interest,” Boehner said tepidly. “But the problem with this issue is that we’re operating in a very hostile political environment. To deal with a very difficult issue like this, I think it would be difficult at best.” That was a critical juncture, one that could have benefited the Republicans with Latinos, who had grown critical of Obama for voicing support for comprehensive immigration reform, but not putting action behind his words, in their view.
Some Democrats -- including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who is chair of the immigration task force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- also were so frustrated with what they perceived as Obama’s lack of force on immigration that they said they were willing to back Rubio’s plan.Obama then announced in June a new initiative that would offer a two-year reprieve to DREAMers, as they’re called, from deportation, as well as work permits. Polls showed that Obama’s Latino support, arguably higher than Romney’s – even with Latino frustration over his unfulfilled promises – jumped considerably after that.Rubio quietly abandoned his DREAM Act-light plan.
Republicans, including the Mitt Romney campaign, blamed the lack of immigration reform on Obama, who they said had used the issue to court Latinos in 2008, but then abandoned it. Obama has said that Republicans stymied efforts to address illegal immigration, and blamed them for dooming the DREAM Act, which passed the House in 2010, but not in Senate, where a 55-to-41 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to break a GOP filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said after the election that the vote showed that Democrats are the party of diversity, and he plans to bring up an immigration reform bill next year. He said Republicans would block such legislation at their own "peril."Meanwhile, Hispanics say they will hold both Democrats and Republicans accountable on immigration reform. "We're going to take on the Democrats, too, and Obama," said Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Public Policy. "We came through for him, for them. It's time now, with immigration reform, to stop the B.S. and do something."
Some Hispanics say the Republican willingness to act on immigration reform will test the Obama administration's true commitment to the matter."The Democrats have really wanted to keep the immigration debate open" and not really take action on it, said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and former chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship during the George W. Bush administration.
"Some Republicans were reluctant to support immigration reform publicly because they felt they would have egg on their face," he said, "there was very little bipartisanship with Obama, and to make a bipartisan bill happen you have to trust you can work with the other party. If bipartisanship doesn't evolve in the next Congress, the numbers just won't be there to pass immigration reform."For their part, some Republicans are renewing their vow to stay hawkish on immigration. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted that Congress has to change 14th Amendment to solve illegal immigration. Graham tweeted, "Without changes in birthright citizenship, we will have future waves of illegal immigration."And two-term Sen. David Vitter said after Obama's re-election that he is not ready to support a bill that includes a pathway to legalization. He said Obama was re-elected because of his charisma.
"The momentum is here for comprehensive immigration reform," said Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights group. "But what is absolutely clear is that it will need the leadership of the Republican party." "This is a great opportunity for Republicans to start rebuilding their relationship with the Latino electorate, and regain the ground with Latinos that George Bush had started building."
By BILL KACZOR, Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Florida man's bid to become the first undocumented immigrant to obtain a law license in the United States met skepticism Tuesday from most of the state's Supreme Court justices.
Jose Godinez-Samperio came to the U.S. with his parents on visitors' visas when he was 9 years old, but the family never returned to Mexico. He graduated from New College in Florida, earned a law degree from Florida State University and passed the state bar exam last year.
"He's somebody who has done everything he's supposed to do. He complied with every rule," Godinez-Samperio's attorney and former American Bar Association president Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, said after the hearing.
Godinez-Samperio's case is one of a few across the country. Undocumented immigrants in New York and California also want to practice law there.
The Board of Bar Examiners in Florida found no reason to deny the 25-year-old Godinez-Samperio a license but asked the state's high court for guidance, said the board's lawyer, Robert Blythe.
"It's not really about this applicant," Blythe said. "It's a broader question."
Justice Barbara Pariente compared Godinez-Samperio's status to someone who doesn't pay federal income tax.
"The board would never recommend that person for admission to the practice of law," Pariente said.
Later, though, she suggested the court could temporarily license Godinez-Samperio. The seven justices questioned lawyers about the possibility of a limited license that would let Godinez-Samperio do free legal work and discussed delaying their decision to see if he obtains a work permit under a policy President Barack Obama announced in June.
"Somebody's trying to make it a – literally – a federal case, but we're talking about one person right now out of thousands every year," Pariente said.
Obama issued a directive to protect immigrants who are 30 or younger and entered the country illegally as children. It exempts them from deportation and offers temporary work permits and Social Security cards for those who apply. It does not provide a path to citizenship.
Pariente said Obama's policy "may or may not continue" if the Democratic president is defeated in November. Republican challenger Mitt Romney said Tuesday he would honor the temporary work permits under Obama's policy while promising comprehensive immigration reform before the two-year visas expire.
Godinez-Samperio said the election may decide his future.
"The voters need to take into account that the president they elect is going to make a lot of these policy changes," he said. "And Mitt Romney has been a failure at being clear on his immigration position."
The Florida justices are appointed by the governor and up for retention votes every six years. Three are on the ballot this year and are opposed by the GOP, a break from a typically nonpartisan election.
Justice Charles Canady also expressed reservations, citing a federal law that prohibits state agencies from licensing undocumented immigrants. He noted the case in California, where the U.S. Justice Department filed brief with the Supreme Court there opposing bar admission for Sergio Garcia.
Garcia also came illegally to the U.S from Mexico when he was a child, but he would not qualify for a work permit under Obama's new policy because he is 35 years old.
D'Alemberte, who also is a former Florida State University president and taught his client when he was a law student, said the federal law doesn't apply because the Florida Supreme Court is not an "agency." He also argued the states have a constitutional right to decide who practices law in their courts.
At least one Florida justice, Cuban immigrant and naturalized citizen Jorge Labarga, seemed to support Godinez-Samperio.
"If he's afforded a Social Security card that means he can work," Labarga said. "Then what's the issue?"
In New York, Ceasar Vargas has passed the bar exam but is waiting to see what happens in Florida and California before applying for a license. Vargas, whose parents illegally brought him to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 5, graduated from the City University of New York law school.
The Oktoberfest of Presidential debates is here and undoubtedly the hot button issue of immigration reform will make it on to the agenda. In one corner of the ring will be the candidate who supports comprehensive immigration reform –the President – and in the other, the candidate who supports self deportation – that is, Mitt Romney.
The sides are clear, never mind the flip flopping by Mitt, his tanner appearance on Univision or his latest talk about how helpful it would be to be Latino. But lost in the talk about immigration reform is the economics or dollars and sense of the left and right policy on the coffers of this country.
So let’s examine the economics of both sides.
Under Romney’s forced self-deportation policy, billions of dollars will have to be added to immigration enforcement to kick out unauthorized immigrants who do not represent any sort of threat to the United States.
As the Center for American Progress posits in the 2010 study, it would cost $200 billion over five years to deport the 10.8 million unauthorized immigrants the Department of Homeland Security claims live in the United States.
Additionally, The Perryman Group in a 2008 report estimates that the long-term negative effect of eliminating the unauthorized workforce would include roughly $245 billion in lost GDP and 2.8 million lost jobs.
Further, Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda in a 2010 study conducted for the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress claims that deporting millions of unauthorized workers and consumers would damage the U.S. economy by reducing the U.S. GDP by 1.46 percent annually. This would amount to a $2.6 trillion cumulative loss in GDP over 10 years, not including the actual costs of deportation.
As if that’s not enough, a 2009 Cato report estimates that “a policy that reduces the number of low-skilled immigrant workers by 28.6 percent compared to projected levels would reduce U.S. household welfare by about 0.5 percent, or $80 billion” in 2019.
As for rounding up and incarcerating undocumented migrants – it costs roughly $166 per day for the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency to detain one person or $5.5 million per day to detain 33,400 people in over 250 facilities, according to estimates by the National Immigration Forum.
Now you know what Romney’s policy stance will cost, let’s look at the economics on comprehensive immigration reform as proposed by President Obama.
The 2006 immigration reform bill, which included a legalization program, would have more than paid for its reform provisions through increased tax revenue.
The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that, as originally introduced on April 7, 2006, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 would have generated $66 billion in new revenue during 2007-2016 from income and payroll taxes, as well as various administrative fees.
This additional revenue would have more than offset the $54 billion in new “direct spending” during 2007-2016 for refundable tax credits, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and food stamps for newly eligible immigrants and their families.
Meanwhile, a 2010 study by Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, conducted for the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress, estimates that immigration reform which includes legalization of unauthorized immigrants and the creation of more flexible channels for legal immigration in the future would add at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over 10 years.
Over the first three years, higher personal income would generate increased consumer spending – enough to support 750,000 – 900,000 jobs in the United States – as well as increased tax revenues of $4.5-$5.4 billion.
The benefits of additional growth in the gross domestic product would be spread broadly throughout the U.S. economy, but immigrant-heavy sectors such as textiles, electronic equipment, and construction would see particularly large increases.
A 2009 report by the libertarian CATO Institute also found that “the positive impact for U.S. households of legalization…would be 1.27 percent of GDP or $180 billion” in 2019.
Further, several past studies have found that immigrants who received legal status under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act went on to acquire more education, earn higher wages, move out of poverty, and buy homes.
A 2009 study by Rob Paral & Associates for the Immigration Policy Center found that “IRCA immigrants age 25-34 years in 1990 experienced an increase of 41 percentage points in home ownership rates by 2006.”
Legal status allows workers to move into higher-paid occupations. For instance, a survey of Mexican men legalized under IRCA found that 38.8 percent had moved up into higher-paying occupations by 1992.
The facts are clear. You be the judge!
Driver's licenses and other state benefits are at the heart of a new battle in the national immigration debate. President Barack Obama's new immigration program will mean some undocumented immigrants will be granted driver's licenses -- and some will not, depending on where they live. It's the first sign that states will differ dramatically in their implementation of the President's program.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer fired the opening salvo last week, on the same day that federal authorities began accepting applications for a program aimed at helping tens of thousands of young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
Brewer ordered officials in her state not to provide driver's licenses or any other benefits to immigrants granted "deferred status" under the new federal program, which allows accepted applicants to remain in the United States and work without fear of deportation for at least two years
A lot of these issues are in uncharted waters. In this particular area, which is how do you treat people that are deferred action, there's very little legal precedent to go by," said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute's office at the New York University School of Law. "States are making their own judgments."
That means the actual benefits recipients see could depend on where they live.
Governors in Nebraska and Texas have already followed Brewer's lead.
"The state of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver's licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants unless specifically authorized by Nebraska statute," Gov. Dave Heineman said Friday.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said that the federal immigration "directive does not undermine or change our state laws," writing in a letter to the state's attorney general that the federal guidelines "confer absolutely no legal status whatsoever" on any immigrant who qualifies.
But California is moving toward granting licenses to the influx of undocumented immigrants expected to take advantage of the federal policy, as is Oregon.
"We're still trying to sort out what this new limbo category means for states," said Ann Morse, program director of the Immigrant Policy Project at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Under the new policy, people younger than 30 who arrived in the United States before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat, and were successful students or served in the military, can get a two-year deferral from deportation and apply for work permits.
A memo outlining the Obama administration's policy states that the program does not grant legal status. But it does provide for a work permit and, presumably, the benefits that come with it.
A Texas driver’s license is among the top documents that undocumented immigrants need to get to a job. A new initiative to provide work permits and “deferred action” on deportations for certain illegal immigrants quickly raised questions about whether those approved for work permits would get driver’s licenses, too.
The answer is yes, say officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The work permit, known as an employment authorization document or I-766, is one of the primary documents used for a limited period driver’s license. Various kinds of noncitizens, from refugees to temporary residents, now receive these temporary driver’s licenses.
“Someone who has been granted “deferred action” and presents an employment authorization document (EAD or I-766) meets the Department’s current lawful presence and identification policy,” said Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Public Safety Department. “If they are otherwise eligible (i.e. have met residency, SSN, and other requirements), they can be issued a driver license set to expire when the EAD expires.”
With a temporary work permit, the immigrants can then apply for a temporary Social Security card, if they qualify for the initiative known as deferred action for childhood arrivals, said Vanna Slaughter, the immigration services director for Catholic Charities of Dallas. In similar cases, such Social Security cards have qualifying language that ties validity to the work permit, Slaughter said.
In Arizona, home turf to huge battles over immigration initiatives, Gov. Jan Brewer said last week her state wouldn’t provide driver’s licenses. Ditto for Nebraska.
In a letter dated Aug. 16th to state agencies, Texas Gov. Rick Perry sounded tough, but nuanced. Perry wrote, “To avoid any confusion on the impact of the Obama administration’s actions, I am writing to ensure that all Texas agencies understand that Secretary Napolitano’s guidelines confer absolutely no legal status whatsoever to any alien who qualifies for the federal ‘deferred action’ designation.”
Perry added, “These guidelines do not change our obligations under federal and Texas law to determine a person’s eligibility for state and local public benefits.”
While the federal initiative on deferred action doesn’t provide legal status under immigration, law, it apparently meets the past definition of lawful presence within the state of Texas and the past practice within the state.
Perry has also supported in-state tuition for immigrants in the U.S. without proper documents. And Perry’s letter doesn’t directly mention driver’s licenses.
“He is really doing a balancing act,” said Dan Kowalski, an Austin-based immigration attorney who edits an immigration law website. “He is placating the Tea Party and trying not to [anger] Latino voters.”
The Migration Policy Institute in Washington estimates as many as 1.76 million illegal immigrants could eventually be eligible for the initiative. Applicants cannot be older than 31 and must have arrived in this country before June 15, 2012 and have five years of continuous residency, among other criteria.
California and Texas are estimated to have the largest number of young immigrants who qualify for the initiative, according to the Migration Policy Initiative.
Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Luis Gutierrez released a video message to the DREAMers on August 6 that is one of the most irresponsible and dangerous public messages from a voice of authority in living memory. It is a deep disgrace that supposed champions and co-sponsors of the DREAM Act would advise young people who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, "Do Not Hire a Lawyer." Yet Sen. Durbin said those words, doing a huge disservice to the very vulnerable class of people they are ostensibly trying to help.
These elected representatives perpetuate a dangerous source of confusion between unscrupulous "notarios" who engage in the unauthorized practice of law, and licensed, trained attorneys who are subject to ethical rules and have the ability to advise DREAMers properly on the process and potential consequences of applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
An experienced immigration lawyer who has carefully reviewed the applicant's background and documents can ensure that DREAMers file applications which will have the best possible chance of success. This is why Senator Durbin's patently false claim that "Virtually everyone will be able to go through this process without a lawyer," is so disturbing. Perhaps he has already forgotten that the Deferred Action application process includes no right of appeal, and permits no motions to reopen. This is a one-shot opportunity. Applicants must get it right on the first try, or else they face a discretionary denial that is final and cannot be reviewed.
Perhaps Sen. Durbin and Rep. Gutierrez have also forgotten that both USCIS and ICE have extremely poor track records with respect to granting any forms of discretionary relief to applicants who are unrepresented by counsel. The memos of June 2011 from ICE Director John Morton authorized broad use of prosecutorial discretion for those already in proceedings who have no criminal convictions, but the rate at which such relief has been granted in immigration courts is less than 2%. Self-represented applicants who misunderstand any of the Deferred Action criteria and thus fail to interpret their own eligibility correctly, or who get the standard right but provide documentation that USCIS regards as insufficient, or who believe that the information they provide will remain confidential, may be placing themselves and their families at risk of deportation. These are some of the key reasons why it is so very important for DREAMers seeking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to consult with a knowledgeable
immigration attorney or legal service organization, and why the message from Messrs. Durbin & Gutierrez will do real harm.
Governor Deval Patrick on Friday vetoed a bill designed to keep illegal immigrants from registering motor vehicles in Massachusetts. The bill Patrick vetoed would have required the Registry of Motor Vehicles to obtain “proof of legal residence” from anyone registering a car in Massachusetts. Lawmakers pushed the measure in response to the outcry following several fatal auto accidents caused by drivers who were in the country illegally.
In his veto message, Patrick argued that the measure would force the Registry to “identify and police undocumented people,” even though he said that is the duty of the federal government, not states. The governor argued that the measure would force the Registry to ‘identify and police undocumented people.’
The recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of Arizona’s tough immigration law “underscores the importance of states treading lightly in the enforcement of federal immigration rules,” the governor wrote. Patrick also argued that it is hard to understand how a “nonresident” simply owning a vehicle in Massachusetts jeopardizes public safety. Indeed, he said it would improve public safety if the Registry keeps a record of every car, regardless of the owner’s residency status.
Lawmakers could override Patrick’s veto but they would have to act quickly because formal sessions end on Tuesday. Senator Richard T. Moore, an Uxbridge Democrat who supports the bill, said he was disappointed but not surprised that Patrick rejected it. The governor has been an outspoken critic of efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants.
Moore said he hopes legislators commit to an override vote.
“The public deserves the protection of knowing that people who are on the roads are on the roads legally,” he said. “It’s clearly a public safety issue, and that’s why the Legislature supported it.”