If Arizona "dreamers'' are going to get state drivers' licenses, they're going to have to wait for a court order.
Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, managed to get a legislative hearing to spell out in law that anyone who gets an authorization to work from the federal government is considered to be "authorized'' to be in this country legally. That would meet the requirements of the 1996 state law.
More immediately, it would void the directive issued last year by Gov. Jan Brewer denying licenses to the potentially 80,000 who are eligible for the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival program announced by the Obama administration.
But Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who chairs the committee, gave HB 2032 only a hearing. And she refused to allow a vote Thursday in the Transportation Committee which she chairs.
Fann did agree to approximately an hour of testimony, all in favor of the bill. Those speaking ranged from a recent college graduate who detailed her night in jail for driving without a license to the head of a business group who said that not allowing these people already here to drive depresses the economy.
But she said there is no real reason to enact what Miranda wants
"I think one of the things that we really need to do is wait for the legal system to sort out exactly what is the law and what isn't,'' Fann said.
The lawsuit pending in federal court stems from arguments by civil rights groups on behalf of several individuals who are eligible for the deferred action program. That allows those brought to the country as children and not yet 30 to remain, in two-year renewable blocks, if they meet other requirements. And they also can get federal permits to work here legally.
They contend the action of the administration makes them and everyone else similarly situated in Arizona "authorized'' to be in the country. And they want a federal judge to rule that Arizona has no choice but to issue licenses to those who are approved for the program.
Brewer contends that a unilateral act by the president and his Department of Homeland Security does not meet the state requirement. And Fann said she "emphatically'' agrees.
Still, Fann said she saw some value in hearing Miranda's bill -- even though she knew ahead of time she would not permit a vote.
"Everybody is screaming at the top of their lungs because they're not being heard on a number of issues,'' Fann said. "It's time to stop the screaming, it's time to stop this anger and frustration,'' saying people need to "start listening'' to everyone's concerns.
But Fann said that, until there is a court ruling, it is "premature'' for the Legislature to do anything.
She conceded, though, that if the court concludes Brewer is wrong, there really won't be anything for lawmakers to do, as any order would direct the state to start issuing the licenses. And if the court finds those in the deferred action program ineligible for licenses under Arizona law, that ends it, as Fann said she would not support changing that law.
Fann said it is irrelevant that lawmakers and officials in other states have concluded those in the program are entitled to licenses. She said only Congress can authorize anyone to be in this country legally.
"This is something that affects our whole nation,'' Fann said.
"You can't have individual states making up rules about how we're going to handle illegal immigrants here,'' she said. "It's got to be something that we say this is what all of us states agree on.''
Miranda, while admitting she hoped until the end of Thursday's hearing that Fann would back down and allow a vote, still called what happened "great progress.''
"A bill like this has never been heard in the Legislature,'' she said. "It's always been anti-immigration bills.''
And she said lawmakers needed to hear from those involved.
That included Mabel Munoz, brought to this country as a child, who detailed being pulled over while a student at Arizona State University and charged with driving without a license.
"It was one of the worst experiences of my life,'' she told lawmakers. And Munoz said she was there to testify in favor of the bill because "I do not want anyone to go have to go through the same thing I did.''