says state can offer no benefits, including drivers licenses, professional certification
Texas Gov. Rick Perry says President Obama's executive order called 'Deferred Action,' which grants certain young undocumented immigrants the right to remain in the country for two years 'confers absolutely no legal status whatsoever' to the individuals who apply, and he is ordering all state agencies not to grant any 'state or local public benefits' to the applicants.
In a letter to all state agency heads, Perry said the order is a 'slap in the face to the rule of law and our Constitutional framework of separated powers.'
"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," Perry wrote.
Last Wednesday the first of an estimated 1.4 million young undocumented immigrants began applying for the program, which guarantees that they will not be deported for at least two years. To apply for the program, individuals have to be under the age of 31, have entered the United States with an illegal immigrant parent or guardian when they were under the age of 16, and have graduated from high school and be enrolled in college, graduated from college, or in the U.S military. They also have to have a clean criminal record.
Jaime Martinez, Chairman of the Cesar Chavez Legacy and Education Fund in San Antonio and an advocate for immigrant rights, pointed out that the governor's order means individuals covered under Deferred Deportation will not be able to receive drivers licenses, professional certification, or any other state benefit.
"This goes beyond mean spirited," Martinez said. "How can they go to work? He wants to starve our people."
Texas already grants in-state college tuition for certain illegal immigrants under a law Perry signed in 2001, a law which caused Perry grief when he was running for the Republican nomination for President.
The bill allows in-state tuition for immigrants from a 'nation adjacent to Texas,' who meet other qualifications, including length of residency in Texas and having graduated from a Texas high school.
"This is kind of counter-intuitive, because in Texas with a Social Security Number you can get a drivers license," said Alina Cortes, a San Antonio woman who has applied for deferred deportation under the President's executive order. "He also signed the Texas Dream Act which grants in state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants."
Perry said his action is justified under Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano's statement that Deferred Deportation 'confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship.'
"Federal law prohibits conferring such benefits to most unlawfully present aliens, absent a state law to the contrary," Perry wrote. "The secretary's directive does not undermine or change our state laws, or any federal laws that apply within the State of Texas."