Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer at a book-signing in Phoenix on Nov. 5, 2011. (Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr)
California and Arizona have a lot in common. They both were once part of Mexico, share the Colorado River and exchange mutual passions over their National League baseball teams. Both states were among the hardest-hit by the housing bust and Great Recession, suffering foreclosures and fiscal crises.
But when it comes to state immigration postures, the two neighbors are often like night and day. Take, for instance, the response of the respective state governments to the Obama Administration’s June decision to suspend deportations of eligible young people for two years.
While Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer declared last week that her administration would make sure benefited youth do not get Arizona driver’s licenses, California took the opposite track.
Mike Marando, spokesperson for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, said Washington’s action converted eligible, undocumented young persons, also known as Dreamers, into temporary legal residents who qualify for driver’s licenses, without violating the California law that does not grant drivers’ licenses to undocumented persons.
“The law does not change, but the immigration status of the young people in the country does,” Marando said. Merely in terms of young undocumented Mexicans residing in the Golden State, an estimated 327,000 people could now be issued California driver’s licenses, according to the Mexican news agency Notimex.
In Arizona, however, Governor Brewer signed an executive order August 15 prohibiting the issuance of driver’s licenses and the delivery of other public services to young persons benefiting from the federal deportation suspension. In justifying her action, Brewer derided the White House’s action as a “secret amnesty.”
The Obama administration’s deportation suspension program could benefit upwards of 1.4 million young people.
Bureaucratically termed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program applies to young people under the age of 31 (as of June 15, 2012) who came to the U.S. before reaching 16 years of age and have resided continuously in this country since June 15, 2007. Other eligibility criteria include a high-school level educational or military background, as well as the absence of a serious criminal record.
On Aug. 15, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency of the Department of Homeland Security began accepting applications from prospective beneficiaries. The applicants will be charged a fee of $465 in addition to providing biometrics and undergoing background checks. Successful applicants will be allowed to obtain work authorization from the federal government.
While states like California and Arizona decide how to respond to the deferred deportation policy on different policy levels, immigrant advocates like the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) warn the public to be wary of shysters who could pop out of the woodwork seeking to profit from the program.
“As with announcements like this in the past, many unscrupulous persons who pose as so-called ‘immigration consultants’ or ‘notarios’ will take this opportunity to deceive people regarding their immigration status,” the BNHR noted in a statement. “By using the similarities of the English word ‘notary public’ to the Spanish term ‘notario publico,’ these unscrupulous persons deceive the public that they are authorized to practice law when they are not.”
Additional sources: El Diario de El Paso/Associated Press, August 17, 2012. La Jornada/Notimex, August 17, 2012.
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico