Gov. Jan Brewer

Gov. Jan Brewer [Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services]

Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services

Arizona has a higher percentage of individuals who have applied for deferred action than any other states, according to a new report.

The study by the Migration Policy Institute found 23,000 people living here had submitted applications by March 31 to remain and work in this country. Federal immigration officials say about 20,000 already have qualified. The study estimates that another approximately 11,000 actually meet the criteria but, for whatever reason, have not applied.

That translates to two out of three of those eligible seeking the protections of the program, compared to just 52 percent nationwide on that date.

Sarah Hooker a policy analyst for the organization, said she attributes some of that to outreach programs by Spanish-language media informing people of the option to not only stay without fear of deportation but also work legally.

That's the carrot, but Hooker said there's also a stick of sorts.

“Part of it is probably the amount of immigration enforcement and the climate of immigration policy and politics in the state,” she said. “When you're in a state that has more active immigration enforcement, and more, perhaps, restrictive laws and policies, there might be a stronger motivation to go and get this protection.”

Federal immigration enforcement aside, Arizona has been at the forefront of efforts aimed at those not in the country legally. That includes laws to punish employers who hire those without documents and legislation which requires police to question those they have stopped about their immigration status if there is reason to believe they are in the country illegally.

The report comes in the middle of a gubernatorial race where all six Republican candidates, to one degree or another, have said more need to be done about the issue.

By contrast, the application rate is much lower in states which place less emphasis on rooting out undocumented immigrants like Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia.

But Hooker said one factor present in some other states encouraging people to apply is not present here: The desire for a driver's license.

That's because Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has decided that the program, formally known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, does not mean those who qualify meet a state law requirement licenses are available only to those whose presence in the country is “authorized by federal law.” She said the Obama administration policy confers no legality but simply says that those in the program will not be pursued.

A federal appeals court has ordered the state to start issuing licenses to these “dreamers” while immigrant rights groups challenge Brewer's action. But that order remains on hold while attorneys for the state seek Supreme Court review.

The report was released to coincide with the two-year anniversary of implementation of the DACA program.

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