PHOENIX Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer, in yet another clash with the White House, issued an order on Wednesday barring illegal immigrants who qualify for temporary legal status in the United States from receiving any state or local public benefits.
The action was a response to relaxed deportation rules issued by the Obama administration on Wednesday.
Brewer, whose state has been at the center of the country's immigration debate, issued an executive order denying state or local benefits to immigrants applying under the new federal immigration rules. The order would bar them from obtaining an Arizona driver's license or a state-issued identification card.
As many as 1.7 million people could qualify for the temporary federal program, which enables certain illegal immigrants to apply for work permits, Social Security cards and driver's licenses, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Applying for "deferred action for child arrivals" permits will shield some young illegal immigrants from being ousted from the United States for at least two years. In Arizona, officials said an estimated 80,000 illegal immigrants were eligible to apply.
To qualify, recipients must have been younger than 16 years old upon arrival; currently not older than 30; have lived in the country since June 15, 2007; and have no felony convictions.
Thousands of eager, young undocumented students swamped immigration offices in states with large immigrant populations like California and Texas on Wednesday.
Brewer wrote in the order that the new program "does not confer upon them any lawful or authorized status and does not entitle them to any additional public benefits."
She said she was reaffirming the intent of current Arizona laws, and preventing "significant and lasting impacts on the Arizona budget, its health care system and additional public benefits that Arizona taxpayers fund."
Arizona passed a tough immigration crackdown in 2010 to try to drive illegal immigrants from the state. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its most controversial provision requiring police to check the immigration status of people they stop if they suspect they are in the country illegally. The law has yet to be implemented.
Carlos Garcia, director of the grassroots community group Puente in Phoenix, called the governor's move on Wednesday a "mean-spirited attack" on a well-meaning program.
"Brewer has once again put Arizona's name on the map as the epicenter of anti-immigrant racism and hate," Garcia said in a statement. "However, like we have continuously showed throughout her time as governor, the community will stand united against Brewer's latest assault."
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Stacey Joyce)