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11:15 am
Thu August 16, 2012

Young Immigrants Protest Arizona Governor's Order

Young undocumented immigrants in Arizona who began the day celebrating a new federal policy for deportation relief ended the day protesting.

Dozens marched to the state capitol building in response to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's executive order that denies driver's licenses and state benefits to the immigrants who will qualify under the federal program.

The order came out the same day immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children could begin to apply to the federal government for work permits and deportation relief under a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

President Barack Obama has called the administrative program a stopgap measure since the DREAM Act, a bill that would grant a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, is stalled in Congress.

Dulce Vazquez, 20, plans to apply for deferred action, and had hoped to eventually get an Arizona driver's license as a result. But Brewer's order would prevent that.

"When we found out that Jan Brewer did this, personally there was a lot of shock, personally I was taken aback by that, and then I was just angry," Vazquez said. "Because then I felt like our giant step wasn't so giant."

Members of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition said they had intended to hold a strategic planning session and celebrate Wednesday evening, but organized an impromptu march to the capitol instead.

As of 8 p.m. on Wednesday, about 60 people were gathered at the capitol. Some planned to spend the night, and there were plans to reconvene in the morning to coincide with the Governor's arrival.

Brewer's order indicates that immigrants who receive deferred action cannot access state benefits under current state law because they will still not be in the country legally.

Officials from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the deferred action program, has said it will be up to the states to decide if deferred action recipients can get state benefits like licenses or in-state tuition at state schools.

Vazquez said Brewer's order demonstrates the limits of deferred action.

"I am going to use this as motivation to get others involved," Vazquez said. "The solution is the DREAM Act, only then can we be recognized as the citizens that we truly are."