Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) directed state agencies this week to ignore President Barack Obama’s order on “deferred action” for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, saying that the order was “a slap in the face to the rule of law and our Constitutional framework of separated powers.”
Although the law states that the federal government has sole authority over matters concerning immigration, and the Obama administration specifically said the order in no way changes the law, Perry insisted that state agencies still have a mandate to verify who is eligible for state and local public benefits — saying, in effect, that Texas will refuse to issue identification cards to undocumented immigrants who qualify for them under federal law.
“The [order] does not undermine or change our state laws, or any federal laws that apply within the State of Texas,” he wrote. “I expect our state agencies to continue to comply with and enforce the laws for the protection of our citizens, communities and state treasury and in fulfillment of our constitutional duty as officials within the executive branch.”
President Obama’s Homeland Security chief did not direct any state to disobey the law, instead telling immigration enforcement agents to prioritize criminal immigrants over students without criminal records. The policy, which took effect last week, lets immigrants who would qualify for citizenship under the DERAM Act apply for “deferred action” on deportation, giving them a two-year work permit and temporary immunity from deportation. The Migration Policy Institute said that an estimated 1.76 million people could benefit from the policy.
Texas follows Arizona and Nebraska in rebuking the administration’s renewed focus on criminal immigrants. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) issued an order last week that denies driver’s licenses and state or local benefits to undocumented immigrants, including those who qualify for federal work permits. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heinemann (R) also said that his state would not issue identification to immigrants in the “deferred action” program.
During the first two years of President Obama’s administration, undocumented immigrants were deported at a higher rate than ever before, outpacing deportations during even the prior eight years of Republican rule. A study published in April 2012 found that facing the reality of those policies and a continued lack of jobs in a still stagnant economy, legal and illegal immigration from Mexico has hit “net zero”, its lowest level in decades. President Obama has promised to take on immigration reform if he’s elected to a second term.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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