AUSTIN – Texas Gov. Rick Perry has become the latest state governor to lash out at the Obama administration over the implementation of a new policy that gives a two-year, renewable period of relief from deportation to some immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.
In a letter dated Aug. 16, Perry told state agencies that the Obama administration's new policy is "a slap in the face to the rule of law," and said Texas' immigration policies won't change.
Thousands of aliens in Texas are eligible to apply for relief from deportation under the guidelines.
Perry's letter comes after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said last week that the new policy does not change existing law prohibiting undocumented immigrants from applying for driver's licenses or accessing other state benefits in the state. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman made a similar announcement on Saturday.
In Texas, people who apply for a driver's license or other state ID must prove legal residency, according to the Austin-American Statesman. The only states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses are New Mexico and Washington.
The letter was addressed and sent Monday to all agency heads individually, as well as to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Perry said he sought to "avoid any confusion on the impact of the Obama administration's actions."
The federal policy confers "absolutely no legal status whatsoever to any alien who qualifies," he wrote.
Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an added set of guidelines establishing deportation priorities by Obama, immigrants 30 or younger will be eligible for a two-year reprieve from deportation if they demonstrate they came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday, lived in the country for the past five years, and have not been convicted of certain crimes or pose a national security threat.
Last week, young people around the nation formed long lines to attend information sessions and briefings on the new program.
In his letter, Perry referred to media reports that "thousands of aliens in Texas are eligible to apply for relief from deportation under the guidelines." He criticized the Obama administration for attempting to "unilaterally undermine the law through a policy statement issued under the cover of so-called 'prosecutorial discretion.'"
He called the move "a slap in the face to the rule of law and our Constitutional framework of separated powers."
But Perry also wrote that the program "does not undermine or change our state laws" and that he expects state agencies to keep enforcing them.
Perry's spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said that even though the policy won't alter state law, Perry has been very clear in opposing it.
During his unsuccessful run for president, Perry strongly defended a Texas law that grants cheaper, in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who attended a Texas high school for at least three years. He also was a vocal opponent of a fence stretching the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Frazier said Perry opposed the way the new policy was implemented: "They basically circumvented the whole process."
Abbott's spokeswoman, Lauren Bean, echoed Frazier, saying the Obama administration doesn't have the authority to ignore the law.
"As it does in all cases, the Attorney General's Office is prepared to defend Texas law -- and any state agencies that are challenged for following the law and complying with the governor's directive," Bean said in a statement Monday.
Perry's letter does not direct any action in response to the new program. Instead, Frazier said, the governor "wanted, on the record, to let agencies know what he expects of them."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.