Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, responding at the Capitol in Phoenix to President Obama's immigration speech, said the policy change represents a "pre-emptive strike" aimed at an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could uphold parts of the state's immigration enforcement law.


PHOENIX - Arizona officials are waiting to see if the decision by the Obama administration to provide work permits to some illegal immigrants would require the state to give them driver's licenses.

Tim Tait, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation, said Wednesday that his agency is studying last week's directive that allows many who were brought to the U.S. as children to seek to defer being prosecuted for being in this country illegally and to avoid being deported.

Under a 1996 Arizona law, anyone seeking a driver's license must prove identity and legal presence in this country. The same requirement exists for identification cards issued by the ADOT.

Technically speaking, Friday's move does not grant legal status to anyone who entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa. But the order does say those who qualify will be issued permits by the federal government entitling them to work legally.

Tait said that raises a host of issues.

"At this time it's not known how or if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's announcement to exercise discretion will affect the requirements for credential issuances," Tait said.

He said Homeland Security has said it will take about 60 days to implement the directive.

"States like Arizona will await further information before we decide how to proceed," he said.

How many Arizonans might be affected remains unclear.

Homeland Security is using a figure of 800,000 illegal immigrants being affected nationwide.

But the Migration Policy Institute, working with the guidelines as announced by the administration, figures the number at closer to 1.4 million.

Organization spokeswoman Michelle Mittelstadt said about 50,000 of these people are presumed to be in Arizona.

The possibility of the president's actions affecting state law annoyed Gov. Jan Brewer.

Press aide Matthew Benson said his boss "stands with the majority of Arizonans in opposing the distribution of driver licenses or any other public benefits to illegal aliens."

But that has not kept the governor from using the administration's move to her political advantage: She sent out an email earlier this week on behalf of her federal political action committee.

"I have set a goal of raising $50,000 in opposition to this ridiculous policy," the message reads. "Will you help me reach the goal by donating today?"

The governor defended the move.

"I know I have to raise money for my PAC if I'm going to get my message out, if I'm going to be able to do things it's going to take to get the job done on this upcoming election," she told Capitol Media Services.