Immigration issues are again taking center stage in Arizona. Young immigrants are upset about Governor Jan Brewer's decision to deny them driver's licenses, and are now demanding answers.
Brewer said Wednesday she would deny driver's licenses to young immigrants granted a deferred deportation.
The governor's office is pointing to Proposition 200 as the legal basis for denying these immigrants a driver's license.
Prop 200 was passed by Arizona voters back in 2004 with 56 percent of the vote -- but both prominent democrats and republicans opposed it.
Half of the law dealt with voting rights -- requiring residents to show proof of citizenship before registering to vote -- and requiring voters to have a photo ID at the polls.
The rest of the law denied state and local public benefits to non-citizens.
The ballot information sent to voters did not spell out what benefits are covered under the law -- and until now, driver's licenses weren't considered one of those benefits.
"The state of Arizona has always respected that person's opportunity, assuming they have an employment authorization document and a social security card, to apply and receive a driver's license and the license is always given to the extent of the duration of the work permit," said Jose Penalosa, immigration attorney.
Thursday, protestors confronted Governor Brewer's spokesman about her decision, and we found that some of these young adults already have a driver's license.
Some of them do, even though they are in the middle of deportation proceedings.
That's why they are so angry -- they believe the governor's executive order contradicts current law. Some have even called it mean-spirited, but the governor's office is not backing down.
The group marched up to the 8th floor of the executive office building and filled the lobby of the governor's office.
Brewer never came out, but her spokesman did and he got an earful.
"Her act yesterday, it was seen as an attack on the youth here," said Dream Act supporter Deborah Robles.
"This is not about targeting individual groups or being hateful, it is about her duty to uphold the law of Arizona," responded spokesman Matt Benson.
That argument didn't go over to well with this crowd.
"We know you are not going to change your mind. And we are not going to change your mind. Because we are going to keep fighting," said Erica Andiola.
Supporters of deferred action say not being able to get a driver's license would be a major setback.
"Most jobs require licenses or state ID for you to get the job," said Gustavo Lopez.
"Existing state law does not allow driver's licensees for these individuals," said Benson.
The law isn't as clear as it may seem. According to the state statute, undocumented individuals can get a license as long as "...presence in the United States is authorized under federal law."
Alan Salinas is undocumented, but was able to get a license while he was in deportation proceedings.
"Every person that goes through deportation proceedings can as long as they have a court date," said Salinas. "They have the opportunity to get a license as long as the government knows that they are here."
Salinas has had a license for the past two years.
"I see the same thing with deferred action. They are giving them the chance to stay in the country for a 2 year period of time. Why wouldn't they have to chance to get a license as well?"
The federal government has said that deferred action does not confer lawful status upon an individual, but it does allow that person to be legally present in this country.
With such contrasting interpretations of the law, it's safe to say the driver's license issue will likely end up in the courts.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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