PHOENIX - If Arizona "Dreamers" are going to get state driver's licenses, they're going to have to wait for a court order.
Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, managed to get a legislative hearing on her bill defining anyone who gets authorization to work from the federal government as being "authorized" to be in this country legally, which would meet the requirements of the 1996 state law detailing who can get a license.
Such a law 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 that won't happen.
Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who chairs the committee, gave HB 2032 only a hearing, refusing to allow the Transportation Committee to vote on the measure Thursday.
Fann agreed to allow about an hour of testimony, all in favor of the bill. Speakers 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 not allowing people who are already here to drive depresses the economy.
But Fann 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.
A lawsuit is pending in federal court, filed by civil-rights groups on behalf of several individuals who are eligible for the deferred-action program, which allows those brought to the country as children and not yet 30 to remain, in two-year renewable blocks. They also can get federal permits to work here legally.
The plaintiffs contend the president's order makes those eligible for deferred action "authorized" to be in the country. They want a federal judge to rule Arizona must issue them licenses.
Brewer contends a unilateral act by the president does not meet the state requirement. Fann said she "emphatically" agrees.
Still, Fann said there was value in hearing Miranda's bill, even though she had already decided 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."
But until there is a court ruling, Fann said it is "premature" for the Legislature to do anything.
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. It's got to be something that we say this is what all of us states agree on."
Miranda said she hoped Fann would relent and allow a vote, but still called the hearing "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.
On StarNet: Find extensive coverage of immigration issues at azstarnet.com/border