Saturday, August 18, 2012

AZ & ND Block State Benefits for Undocumented Youth

The big news this week is that the Obama's administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides benefits to young undocumented immigrants that are similar to those of the DREAM Act, has gone into effect.

According to Huffington Post here are the details of the program:

The administration plan is to stop deporting many undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living here at least five years and are in school or graduated or served in the military. They also cannot have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat. 
Under guidelines that the administration announced Tuesday, proof of identity and eligibility could include a passport or birth certificate, school transcripts, medical and financial records and military service records. The DHS said that in some instances, multiple sworn affidavits, signed by a third party under penalty of perjury, also could be used. Anyone found to have committed fraud will be referred to federal immigration agents, the department said. 
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said being approved to avoid deportation "does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship." 
The paperwork for the program can be downloaded from the Immigration Services website. Applicants must pay a $465 fee and provide proof of identity and eligibility.A decision on each application could take several months, and immigrants have been warned not to leave the country while their application is pending. If they are allowed to stay in the United States and want to travel internationally, they will need to apply for permission to come back into the country, a request that would cost $360 more.

Of course Republicans view this program very differently. The infamously brainless governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, responded by announcing that in Arizona they will seek to deny any person who applies for deferred action to be ineligible for a driver's licence or any other state-issued benefits.

In her executive order, Brewer essentially said that undocumented immigrants granted deferred action will not be recategorized as lawful residents. The order is intended to cut through some confusion created by the president's program, Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said. 
"As the (DHS) has said repeatedly ... these individuals do not have lawful status," Benson told The Republic. "They are able to remain in the country and not be deported and not be prosecuted, but they do not have lawful status." 
Regina Jefferies, a Phoenix immigration lawyer who chairs the Arizona chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said Brewer's order contradicts state law. 
She said that deferred action existed before the program started on Wednesday and that there are "many, many" instances in Arizona of immigrants granted deferred action for other reasons who have received licenses. 
She said Brewer will likely face a lawsuit. 
Brewer's order bars undocumented immigrants who receive deferred action from public benefits that include state-subsidized child care; KidsCare, a children's health-insurance program; unemployment benefits; business and professional licenses and government contracts, Benson said. 
This is Brewer just being an asshole. Of course states get to determine whom they issue state issued benefits to, and they can decide to not issue any benefits to undocumented immigrants. The fact that the federal government is providing employment benefits and reprieve from deportation to these same individuals is irrelevant to state actions. But the timing of Brewer's action was really just to make sure her xenophobic (some would say nativist) perspective is included in any media coverage about the Obama administration's new program.

Of course, it is only a matter of time before other Republican governors join Brewer in demonstrating their disapproval of immigrants. Governor Dave Heineman of North Dakota became the first to jump in the hateful pool after Brewer:

“President Obama’s deferred action program to issue employment authorization documents to illegal immigrants does not make them legal citizens. The State of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver’s licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants unless specifically authorized by Nebraska statute.”

Well, duh.

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