PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday she sees no contradiction between her desire to help victims of sex trafficking and her decision to take away licenses from some domestic violence victims who are in the country illegally.
Brewer told members of a task force she created on trafficking that she wants solutions to cut down on women and girls being forced into prostitution.
“You know that generally they target women and children,” she told panel members. “I want you to know that I am committed, as I know you all are, to coming up with a solution.”
But the governor, speaking to reporters after her comments, sidestepped a question about why, despite her concern for these victims, her administration is no longer issuing licenses to some domestic violence victims who have been granted deferred action status by the Department of Homeland Security.
That status allows them to not only remain in the country but also work here.
“I think that that is kind of a loaded question,” Brewer said of the comparison between domestic violence and sex trafficking victims. She said the issue being discussed by her task force “is horrendous and it's evil and it's sick.”
“And it has nothing to do with driver's licenses,” the governor said.
Brewer is in court defending her decision to refuse to license those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program announced last year by the Obama administration. So far, about 15,000 Arizonans who were brought to this country as children have qualified and been granted work permits by the federal government.
But Brewer contends their presence is not “authorized” by federal law as required under a 1996 Arizona statute.
The dispute boiled over earlier this month as Brewer's attorneys are working to defend the state against charges it was guilty of unequal treatment. That came after challengers pointed out Arizona has issued licenses for years to those in other deferred action programs.
So the state's response was to announce it would stop issuing licenses to those in two other programs.
ADOT spokesman Timothy Tait said his agency has no way of knowing how many individuals are going to lose the licenses they have had until now. That includes those with what the federal government calls C-14 deferred action status, a category which has been used by domestic violence victims.
But Brewer denied Wednesday anyone is being hurt by the move.
“Everything I've read in the paper has been, in my mind, very misguided,” Brewer said, calling it “not well researched information provided to the public.” And she said violence victims have options other than the C-14 status that Arizona is now refusing to recognize.
But Linton Joaquin, general counsel for the National Immigration Law Center, said it is Brewer who is mistaken in believing that no one will be harmed.
He said the C-14 deferred action status has been specifically geared to the federal Violence Against Women Act, which permits domestic violence victims who are not here legally to remain and work while they are petitioning for permanent residency.
ADOT is taking the position that domestic violence victims, both men and women, could qualify for C-31 status. Arizona recognizes those with that particular designation as being “authorized,” meaning they are entitled to licenses.
Joaquin, however, said that's no help for Arizonans who have C-14 status and already are living and working in the state. And he said there are probably individuals who qualify for C-14 status who would not qualify for the state-recognized C-31 status.
A federal judge has questioned the state's policy of recognizing some deferred action categories and not others. But he refused to order Brewer to immediately start issuing licenses to the DACA recipients who get a C-33 designation.
The case goes to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December.