SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

August 16, 2012

Thousands line up for right to work legally in the US

(Continued)

In Arizona, which passed one of the nation’s toughest anti-immigration laws, Gov Jan Brewer signed an executive order yesterday directing state agencies to deny driver’s licenses and other public benefits to illegal immigrants who obtain work authorizations under the program. Brewer said she’s following the intent of the current state law denying public benefits to illegal immigrants.

To be eligible for the federal program, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living in the country at least five years, and are in school or graduated or served in the military. They cannot have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat.

Initial concerns that federal authorities might take a tough approach on applications or that a Republican presidential victory could unravel applicants’ gains have largely been pushed aside by massive interest from thousands of young people eager to work.

In Los Angeles, one immigrant rights’ group started hosting hourly information sessions over the last month to keep up with the frenzy. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles has handed out 12,000 information packets about the program and is encouraging all eligible immigrants to apply as long as they have stayed out of legal trouble, said Angelica Salas, the organization’s director.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney does not support so-called Dream Act legislation for illegal immigrants who attend college — a key group that Obama aims to reach with this program. The former Massachusetts governor has also criticized the deferred action program but has not said it he would reverse it, pledging instead an unspecified “civil but resolute” long-term fix to illegal immigration.

So far, the measure has won favor for Obama along Latinos — many who view immigration as a litmus test when choosing a political candidate, said Manuel Pastor, director of the University of Southern California’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

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