Friday, November 30, 2012

Jan Brewer Sued Over License Policy For Immigrants

Immigrant rights advocates filed a lawsuit Thursday that seeks to overturn Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's order denying driver's licenses for young immigrants who have gotten work permits and avoided deportation under a new Obama administration policy.

The lawsuit alleges the state has in effect classified young-adult immigrants as not having permission to be in the country and asks a federal judge to declare Brewer's policy unconstitutional because it's trumped by federal law and denies licenses without valid justification.

"Arizona's creation of its own immigration classification impermissibly intrudes on the federal government's exclusive authority to regulate immigration," the lawsuit said.

The Obama administration in June took administrative steps to shield as many as 800,000 immigrants from deportation. Applicants must have been brought to the United States before they turned 16, be younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have graduated from a high school or GED program or have served in the military. They also were allowed to apply for a two-year renewable work permit.

Brewer has defended her Aug. 15 order on driver's licenses as necessary for ensuring that state agencies adhere to the intent of state laws denying public benefits to undocumented immigrants.

The governor has clashed with the Obama administration in the past over illegal immigration, most notably in the challenge that the federal government filed in a bid to invalidate Arizona's 2010 immigration law. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law's most contentious section, but threw out other sections.

Lawyers for two civil rights groups that led a challenge to the 2010 state law also filed the lawsuit over Brewer's driver's license policy.

The latest case was filed on behalf of the five young-adult immigrants in Arizona who were brought to the United States from Mexico as children and were granted deferred deportation protections under the Obama administration's policy but were denied licenses or complained that Brewer's order has caused significant hardships.

Brewer's policy makes it difficult or impossible for such young immigrants to do essential things in their everyday life, such as going to school, going to the grocery store, and finding and holding down a job, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said Brewer's order means federal work permits for the program's participants won't be accepted as proof of their legal presence in the country for the purpose of getting a driver's license. Still, the lawsuit said, the state will accept such a work permit from immigrants who have won deferred deportation status as part of other federal immigration programs.

The five young immigrants aren't seeking money damages and instead are asking a judge to bar Arizona from denying driver's licenses to immigrants who were granted deferred deportation status by the federal government. It seeks class-action status that would let all other young immigrants in Arizona who were granted the deferred-deportation protection join the lawsuit.

About 11,000 people living in Arizona have applied for the deferred deportation protection under the Obama administration's policy.

The lawsuit was also filed on behalf of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, a group that advocates for federal legislation that would provide a path to legal status for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.


Scott Beason, sponsor of Alabama immigration law, disappointed by federal courts, by national GOP

Alabama Sen. Scott Beason said he was disappointed that Alabama today lost its appeal for a rehearing, meaning Alabama will not be allowed to check the immigration status of students.

"Unfortunately, the states seem to be left at the mercy of whatever the federal government is trying to do," said Beason, who sponsored Alabama's 72-page immigration law.

Today's ruling largely ends initial efforts to enforce what has been considered the nation's toughest anti-immigration act. Much of the law remains unenforceable, having been blocked by federal courts.

"The law of the land is not being followed," said Beason, R-Gardendale, who also appears to be nearing the end of what he called an "exciting ride" in the national spotlight.

"Where we go from here is an interesting question," said Beason of state immigration law. "I'm looking at every option we may have."

But since President Obama won re-election with the support of 70 percent of Latino voters, national GOP lawmakers have been backing away from tough immigration policies, such as the models in Alabama and Arizona.

"I don't think being soft on illegal immigration gains the GOP any votes," said Beason

He said at one point last year, as he was receiving calls from across the country, he found that many who had come to the country legally supported his efforts. He said that illegal immigration provides cheap labor that suppresses wages for Alabama citizens. And he said the issue still needs to be addressed.

But in the end, federal judges blocked most of his legislation. Illegal immigrants can not be stopped from entering into contracts. It's not illegal to rent to or give a ride to an undocumented immigrant. Schools do not need to inquire into immigration status of students.

Perhaps the most controversial section survived repeated challenges. Local and state police in Alabama and Arizona can inquire into immigration status during traffic stops. Also, businesses can be required to use a federal database to verify the immigration status of employees.

Beason said Congress needs to secure the border before tackling immigration reform. He said that may entail a fence or may mean better enforcement of existing laws. "It's like a plumbing problem," he said. "Until you fix the leak you don't do repairs on the house."

Despite legal setbacks and much national press, Beason said Alabama's experiment was not detrimental to the state's reputation. In encouraging immigrants to "self-deport," which was also the official policy of presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Alabama was repeatedly portrayed as cruel and intolerant, Beason acknowledged. But he said the arguments were based in partisan politics.

"I think that's just what some people who sit in ivory towers in some newspapers like to say," said Beason, pointing out that few national news outlets reported "whining stories" about Alabama failing to remove racist language from the state constitution this month. He said that was because Democratic groups here opposed the removal.

He said the immigration law did not interfere with Alabama's efforts to land foreign businesses, including Airbus. He contends the "bellyaching and moaning" over the Alabama law was a Democratic effort at the national level used to drive a wedge between wings of the Republican party.

Beason, who lost a bid to step up to Congress earlier this year, said he stands by efforts to make the state unwelcome to undocumented workers.

"Some people nationally care about making sure their team is in power" even if some of the policies are identical between the parties, said Beason. "You've got to stand for some sort of principles."


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