Since America’s founding, we have served as a safe harbor for countless generations of immigrants, offering the ability to work hard and pursue the American Dream. As a city, Phoenix encapsulates this tradition. Our community has enjoyed contributions from generations of immigrants as business owners, educators, and civic leaders.
In recent years, Phoenix has also served as a home to thousands of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients. In fact, with 21,420 DACA recipients calling Phoenix home, we rank seventh in the nation for largest DACA population. These individuals are working hard and pursuing their dreams.
However, decisions at the federal level have jeopardized the future of our Dreamers. Over two years ago, the Trump administration rescinded the DACA program, despite the benefits the program and all that its recipients have brought our city and nation.
Since that decision, Dreamers have been caught in a seemingly endless game of legal limbo. Court injunctions have temporarily allowed protections to remain in place, but the future is uncertain. On November 12, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the program.
Our city and our nation are stronger when we embrace our diversity. We are also more economically robust. If DACA workers in Arizona were removed, it would cost our state over $1.3 billion in annual GDP. We would also lose their contribution to federal, state, and local taxes.
Dreamers are our students, teachers, neighbors, friends, and family. They are fellow Arizonans and fellow Americans.
Phoenix remains committed to our Dreamers, which is why we, along with 108 other cities, counties, and organizations, signed onto an amicus brief supporting our nation’s DACA recipients and objecting to the elimination of the program.
While we will do everything in our power here in Phoenix to protect our neighbors, ultimately permanent protections can only come from Washington. Instead of leaving DACA recipients in limbo at the mercy of the courts, Congress must pass a legislative solution.
Nearly nine in 10 Americans support protecting Dreamers. To abandon our DACA recipients now, in spite of who they are and everything they contribute, is to abandon so much of what has made our city, our state, and our country what it is.
Gov. Doug Ducey said Tuesday the ultimate solution for how to deal with “dreamers” has to come from Congress.
“The Supreme Court’s going to do what the Supreme Court’s going to do,” the governor said hours after the nation’s high court heard legal arguments about whether President Trump has the authority to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA, established by President Obama, allows those who arrived in this country illegally as children to remain and work if they meet certain conditions.
Trump in essence contends because the program was created by executive action it can be similarly abolished. The question for the Supreme Court is does he need a rationale for that move and is that rationale justified.
Ducey said that, whatever the justices rule, he wants there to be a path toward legalizing the status of the more than 660,000 DACA recipients already in the country, including nearly 25,000 in Arizona.
“I want to make sure the rug isn’t pulled out from underneath these DACA kids,” he said.
And that, the governor said, will require a compromise.
“I think it’s an opportunity for border security and immigration reform,” Ducey said.
“Let’s start with border security,” he continued. “And let’s make sure that this issue around DACA is taken care of.”
Ducey brushed aside questions of whether congressional Democrats would be willing to enact enhanced border security ahead of immigration reform and trust Republicans to follow through.
“That’s a political question,” he said.
“What I’m giving to you is a very solvable equation,” the governor said. “Congress should do its job.”
The governor’s position echoes comments made the day before by U.S. Sen. Martha McSally who said she had proposed a solution to the problem.
“I’ve been working on this for a very long time,” she said Monday. “And I do believe there is a way, a bipartisan way, we can work together to secure the border and find a legal path forward for DACA.”
McSally also said she has an answer.
“My legislation did that in the House,” she said.
As a representative, McSally had been a co-sponsor of the Recognizing America’s Children Act. It would have provided pathways for legal status for DACA recipients.
But what McSally did not say Monday is that she asked the House for unanimous consent to formally take her name off that bill.
That occurred in the spring of 2018 when she was hoping to become the Republican nominee for the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake. She was facing two GOP foes who had taken harder-line positions on immigration: former state Sen. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
McSally shifted her support to the Securing America’s Future Act which would toughen border security. And as to DACA recipients, they would have been granted only “contingent nonimmigrant status.”
Aides to McSally said at the time that she “wanted to clarify which legislative solution she backs wholeheartedly.”
And weeks later, with the Republican primary still pending, her staff removed from YouTube a video of McSally defending the DACA program.
McSally won the GOP nomination only to be defeated in November by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.
Despite that loss, Ducey tapped her to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. John McCain. That means McSally has to run again next year if she wants to fill out the last two years of that term.
State Attorney General Mark Brnovich has sided with Trump in the legal battle playing out at the Supreme Court, signing on to a multi-state legal briefs contending that Obama never had the legal authority to create the program in 2012.
In explaining his position when the brief was filed in 2017, Brnovich said it isn’t necessary for the justices to agree with his arguments about Obama exceeded his authority. He said the high court can give Trump the go-ahead to abolish the program on other grounds.
“It’s a matter of simple logic,” he said. “If President Obama can create a substantive program by himself using executive power, then why can’t President Trump rescind that using executive action?”
Brnovich also said that a Supreme Court decision backing the president would be a good thing, forcing Congress to finally do something.
“DACA recipients are being used as political footballs by both parties,” he said. “There’s no incentive for politicians in Washington, D.C. to solve this problem because they’d rather have it around as a political issue.”
Ducey’s position on seeking a congressional solution is not new.
“I have doubted the legality of President Obama’s unilateral actions,” the governor said in 2017 when Trump first proposed scrapping the program. Ducey said he has taken the position that “Congress needs to address our outdated immigration policies and put a more strategic focus on border enforcement.”
But even then, the governor made it clear he wanted some permanent solution for dreamers, saying many are “living in limbo.”
“They should be held harmless from the decisions of their parents,” he said.
A last-minute decision by the Green Party candidate to drop out of the race for U.S. Senate could provide Democrat Kyrsten Sinema a needed bump.
Angela Green told KPNX-TV on Thursday she wants people to vote for “a better Arizona.”
“And that would be for Kyrsten Sinema,” she said.
Green, whose polling has never gotten above single digits, said she struggled with the decision.
“But that’s what it is,” she said.
Green said she could not support Republican Martha McSally who, depending on which poll is cited, is in a neck-and-neck race with Sinema. That decision, Green said, had to do with Sinema’s views.
“They are more in line with what my political, my agenda is, what I’m looking to do to help Arizona become more green again,” she said. That conclusion, Green said, came following watching the debate between the two contenders.
“Sinema’s stance on a lot of things are close to mine,” she said.
Whether that moves the needle remains to be seen.
A survey by OH Predictive Insights released Wednesday put McSally at 52 percent versus 45 percent for Sinema. Green was polling at 1 percent, with 2 percent undecided. That survey was taken between Oct. 22 and 23.
But a CNN poll covering Oct. 24 through 29 had Sinema up 4 points, the poll’s margin of error.
And one done by NBC and Marist in the Oct. 23 to 27 had Sinema with a 6-point lead in a head-to-head race, though Sinema’s lead shrunk to 3 points when polled as a three-way race including Green.
Then there’s the question of whether there are enough Green supporters out there who have not already mailed in their early ballots.
Figures Thursday from the Secretary of State show about 1.35 million ballots already have been turned in.
There are about 3.7 million registered voters. But that still leaves the question of how many will actually cast a vote.
The last midterm election in 2014 had a turnout of just 47.2 percent of those registered.
There have been some predictions that voter interest is stronger this year than it was at that time, especially with the fight over the Senate seat that became open when Republican Jeff Flake decided not to seek reelection.
By comparison, turnout two years ago, with a presidential election, was 74.2 percent.
“Sixteen years later and Kyrsten Sinema’s still the Green Party’s candidate,” said McSally spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair. That is a reference to the fact that Sinema had aligned herself with the Green Party in her first bid for the Legislature in 2002; she did not get elected until two years later under the Democratic Party banner.
Green could not be reached for comment.
At least one area where Green’s views likely come closer to that of Sinema is on the issue of immigration.
“I, too, am an immigrant,” she wrote on the information submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. “That is why I support programs like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and laws that make it easier and more efficient for immigrants coming here to become valuable citizens in our society.”
McSally, by contrast, has hewed close to the positions of President Trump, promoting the fact that she supported legislation that includes building a wall. She also has come out in support of the president’s decision to send troops to the border.
The ability of “dreamers” living in Arizona to drive could depend on what the Trump administration thinks.
In a brief order Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the Department of Justice for its views on whether those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are legally present in this country.
The court gave no deadline for a response. But the order likely means that the justices won’t decide on the state’s bid to deny licenses until at least October – if not later.
It also means that the more than 21,000 DACA recipients who have been issued licenses following a federal appellate court order will continue to be able to drive in the interim.
The fact that the justices want to hear from the Trump administration is significant.
In 2014, the Department of Justice told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the state’s policy of denying licenses to DACA recipients is contrary to federal law.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lindsey Powell told the judges that Arizona has no right to decide that some people the federal government allows to remain in this country are “authorized” to be here and that others are not. She said that as far as the federal government is concerned, all are equal under the law – and all are entitled to the same rights and privileges – including licenses.
“Arizona may not substitute its judgment for the federal government’s when it comes to establishing classifications of alien status,” Powell wrote.
But that brief was filed on behalf of the Obama administration which had adopted DACA in 2012.
That program allows those who were brought here illegally as children to remain if they meet certain other conditions, permission that is good for two years and renewable. They also are issued Employment Authorization Documents entitling them to work.
Now the Department of Justice reports to President Trump. And what he – and the agency – think about the program is unclear.
During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to repeal DACA the first day he was in office.
He did not do that. In fact, in the most recent announcement earlier this month, Trump’s Department of Homeland Security suggested it is in no immediate danger.
“The future of the DACA program continues to be under review with the administration,” the statement reads. “The president has remarked on the need to handle the issue with compassion and with heart.”
But the agency said the statement was meant only to clarify that DACA would not be immediately canceled and “should not be interpreted as bearing any relevance on the long-term future of that program.”
“It’s not surprising that the Supreme Court would like to hear what the federal government would have to say about the case,” said Victor Viramontes, senior attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. But he said the legal analysis of DACA, which remain in effect, as well as the rights of those in the program remain the same.
“The only decisions up to now is what Arizona is doing is illegal,” Viramontes said. “Nothing’s really changed on that.”
Still, he acknowledged that doesn’t mean the current Department of Justice will see things the same.
“It is a new administration and it’s really hard to know exactly what they will say,” Viramontes said.
Former Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order in 2012 that directed the state Department of Transportation not to give licenses to DACA recipients.
In that order, Brewer said a 1996 state law says licenses are available only to those whose presence in the country is “authorized by federal law.” She took the position that the DACA program confers no legal presence on those in it but simply says they will not be pursued or deported.
Doug Ducey, who became governor in 2015, has left that order in place. And Attorney General Mark Brnovich has advanced the same legal arguments to the Supreme Court after the 9th Circuit rejected them.
In the interim, following an appellate court order, the state has been issuing licenses to DACA recipients. The last time ADOT updated the figures was in April 2016 when more than 21,000 dreamers had licenses.
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