Immigration move might allow licenses
PHOENIX — The decision by the Obama administration to provide work permits to some illegal immigrants could result in them being able to get Arizona driver's licenses.
Tim Tait, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Wednesday his agency is studying last week's directive that allows many who were brought to the country as children to seek to defer being prosecuted for being in this country illegally and to avoid being deported.
Under a 1996 Arizona law, anyone seeking a driver's license must prove both identity and legal presence in this country. The same requirement exists for non-operator identification cards issued by ADOT.
Technically speaking, Friday's move does not grant legal status to anyone who entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa. But the order does say those who qualify will be issued permits by the federal government entitling them to work in this country legally.
Tait said that raises a host of issues.
“At this time it's not known how or if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's announcement to exercise discretion will affect the requirements for credential issuances,'' Tait told Capitol Media Services.
He pointed out that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said it will take about 60 days to implement the directive. “States like Arizona will await further information before we decide how to proceed.”
How many Arizonans might be affected remains unclear.
The Department of Homeland Security is using a figure of 800,000 nationwide. But the Migration Policy Institute, working with the guidelines as announced by the administration, figures the number at closer to 1.4 million.
Organization spokeswoman Michelle Mittelstadt said about 50,000 of these people are presumed to be in Arizona. And of that, slightly more than half are currently in school, with another nearly 30 percent who are high school graduates or have a equivalency diploma and are not planning further education.
The institute also believes another 17 percent are currently enrolled in college or already have graduated.
The possibility of the president's actions affecting state law annoyed Gov. Jan Brewer.
Press aide Matthew Benson said his boss “stands with the majority of Arizonans in opposing the distribution of driver licenses or any other public benefits to illegal aliens.''