PHOENIX - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday ordered state agencies to deny driver's licenses and other public benefits to young illegal immigrants who obtain work authorizations under a new Obama administration policy.
In an executive order, Brewer said she was reaffirming the intent of current Arizona law denying taxpayer-funded public benefits and state identification to illegal immigrants.
Young illegal immigrants around the nation on Wednesday began the process of applying for federal work permits under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The federal policy defers deportations for that group if they meet certain criteria, including arrival in the United States before they turned 16 and no convictions for certain crimes.
After President Barack Obama announced the policy change in June, Brewer labeled it "backdoor amnesty" and political pandering by the Democratic president.
Arizona has been in the vanguard of states enacting laws against illegal immigration.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned parts of the Arizona enforcement law known as SB1070 but ruled that a key provision on requiring police to ask people about their immigration status under certain circumstances can be implemented.
The Obama administration challenged that law in 2010 after Brewer signed it into law.
In the past decade, Arizona voters twice approved laws denying publicly funded services, such as in-state resident university tuition rates, to illegal immigrants unless mandated by the federal government.
Brewer's order said the policy's federal paperwork doesn't confer lawful status on illegal immigrants and won't entitle them to Arizona public benefits.
However, it said the policy change "could result in some unlawfully present aliens inappropriately gaining access to public benefits contrary to the intent of Arizona voters and lawmakers who enacted laws expressly restricting access to taxpayer funded benefits and state identification."
Brewer directed state agencies to start any necessary emergency rulemaking processes to implement her order.
Some protesters marched to the state Capitol on Wednesday night from the downtown Phoenix office of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.
"We are saddened that Gov. Brewer is siding with the past, against progress, against young people and the general support the Dream Act has in the general population," Dulce Matuz, Arizona ADAC chairman, said in a statement.
State Rep. Catherine Miranda, who supports the federal program, called Brewer's action mean-spirited.
"She just continues to put obstacles in front of young people in Arizona," the Phoenix Democrat said.
Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said he questioned whether the order would have much practical effect under Arizona's current laws. But he said it served to demonize good kids who should be allowed to get state-issued identification and enter the workforce.
Arizona Democratic Party executive director Luis Heredia said Brewer's order "fails to move Arizona forward on immigration reform. This amounts to a gubernatorial temper tantrum."