Arizona gov issues order denying benefits to undocumented immigrants

Arizona‘s Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order on Aug. 15 that instructs state agencies not to provide driver’s licenses and other public benefits to undocumented immigrants who have gained the right to work under a new federal program known as Deferred Action. Brewer’s executive order rebuffs the Deferred Action program, a recent Obama administration policy that allows undocumented immigrants who served in the armed forces or have graduated high school, came to the US at a young age and are under 30 not to be deported. In her executive order, Brewer argued that the Deferred Action program does not grant legal status to undocumented immigrants and that she is enforcing current state law that denies public benefits to these immigrants:

State agencies that provide public benefits … shall … to the extent not prohibited by state or federal law, initiate operational, policy, rule and statutory changes necessary to prevent Deferred Action recipients from obtaining eligibility, beyond those available to any person regardless of lawful status, for any taxpayer-funded public benefits and state identification, including a driver’s license, so that the intent of Arizona voters and lawmakers who enacted laws expressly restricting access to taxpayer funded benefits and state identification are enforced.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona issued a statement criticizing Brewer for allegedly distorting federal and state law.

The Deferred Action program has been the subject of controversy since the Obama administration initiated it in June. In June Congressman Ben Quayle (R-AZ) introduced a bill to block the Deferred Action program from taking effect. Earlier in June Congressman Steve King (R-IA) announced that he plans to sue the Obama administration to delay the enforcement of the Deferred Action program.

From Jurist, Aug. 16. Used with permission.

See our last post on the politics of immigration.

  1. Arizona law denying bail for undocumented immigrants upheld
    The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on June 18 uphel a lower court’s ruling that dismissed a challenge to Arizona’s Proposition 100, a voter-approved amendment which denies bail to undocumented immigrants being held for serious felonies. The plaintiffs, represented by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Cecillia Wang, argued that the law denies immigrants their due process rights and serves an unlawful punitive purpose. The appeals court, finding no evidence in the law’s legislative history of a punitive purpose, was unpersuaded. In his majority opinion, Judge Richard Tallman stated “Proposition 100’s legitimateā€”indeed its compellingā€”purpose is ensuring that defendants remain in the United States to stand trial for alleged felony violations of Arizona’s criminal laws.” Judge Raymond Fisher dissented, stating:

    The excessiveness and overbreadth of this scheme, particularly in light of its legislative history, reveal that the real purpose of Proposition 100 was to use the categorical denial of bail to punish arresteesā€”for their assumed undocumented status and for their suspected but unproven crimes.

    According to Fisher, the law “reflects a serious devaluation of the presumption of innocence and the constitutional principle that arrestees may not be punished before judgment of guilt.”

    The ACLU along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) filed the suit in April 2008. The Arizona government approved Proposition 100 in November 2006, along with three other measures directed at illegal immigration. In October 2007 the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the law, ruling that it did not violate undocumented immigrants’ due process rights.

    From Jurist, June 20. Used with permission.