The decision by the Obama administration to provide work permits to some illegal immigrants could result in them being able to get Arizona driver licenses.
Tim Tait, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Wednesday his agency is studying last week’s directive which 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 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 know 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,” he said.
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.”
But that has not kept the governor from using the administration’s move to her political advantage: She sent out an e-mail earlier this week on behalf of her federal political action committee.
“I have set a goal of raising $50,000 in opposition to this ridiculous policy,” the message reads. “Will you help me reach the goal by donating today?”
The governor defended the move.
“I know I have to raise money for my PAC if I’m going to get my message out, if I’m going to be able to do things it’s going to take to get the job done on this upcoming election,” she told Capitol Media Services.
JanPAC, as the committee is known, raised $31,000 in the first three months of the year; reports are not yet due for the second quarter.
Expenses are limited to races for federal offices. But Brewer has not yet made any donations to any candidate nor done any independent expenditures on behalf of anyone.
“It’ll go to whomever I decide it’ll go to, as the appropriate time,” she said. Brewer said that may include helping to elect GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney.
Brewer has been trying to sweeten her plea with offers of a signed copy of her book, “Scorpions for Breakfast” for donors. That originally was available only to those who sent at least $100; the most recent request says a $50 donation will get a signed book.