Protests Continue Against Arizona Governor's Order

Deborah Robles, a "documented DREAMer" and organizer with the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, addresses the crowd before they head into the governor's office.
Nick Blumberg
By Nick Blumberg
August 16, 2012

Photo by Nick Blumberg
Francisco Luna spent a sleepless night on the lawn outside Arizona's Capitol.

PHOENIX -- A group of DREAM activists spent the night on the lawn in front of the Capitol trying to send a message to Arizona leaders.

The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for young people brought to the U.S. illegally. The Obama Administration's deferred deportation plan does not lead to citizenship, but DREAM activists still welcomed the program as a first step toward immigration reform.

Deborah Robles was one of the protesters who slept on the lawn. She says Wednesday's executive order isn't the first setback they've faced from Gov. Jan Brewer or the state legislature.

"Government [has] passed many laws that prohibit DREAMers [from going] to school, that prohibit DREAMers [from being able] to get a license or go to work. And yet, we came out with the deferred action. We won that. We're not afraid of whatever barriers she continues to put up. We'll win again," Robles said.

Photo by Nick Blumberg
Activist Deborah Robles and undocumented "DREAMers" confer in the lobby of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's office.

The crowd walked from the Capitol mall into the lobby of the governor's office to deliver a Merrill/Morrison Institute Poll showing more than 70 percent of Arizonans support the DREAM Act.

Saying Brewer was unavailable, her spokesman Matt Benson came out and spoke with representatives of the group. One young man asked pointedly why Brewer issued the executive order on Wednesday, the first day eligible immigrants could apply for deferred action.

"Yesterday was the day that we received further details on how this program would work, what the identification and the work permits would look like," Benson said. "There's been a lot of uncertainty about that, so in light of that announcement yesterday, that was the reason she thought it was important to clarify for her state agencies how they should proceed going forward."

Photo by Nick Blumberg
Matt Benson, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's spokesman, addresses the crowd of undocumented immigrants who protested the executive order Thursday.

Benson said the executive order simply clarifies existing state law that non-citizens can't receive Arizona driver's licenses.

But the legal basis of Brewer's order may conflict with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services guidelines, casting doubt on whether the state can actually deny licenses to this population. Some immigration attorneys say other immigrants -- with the same legal status as deferred action DREAMers -- are able to get a drivers license.