Local undocumented immigrants who recently got some good news from the president are about to get some bad news from Tennessee lawmakers.
A movement is under way that would restrict state benefits for immigrants allowed to stay under President Barack Obama's new deferred deportation program.
Several states have already announced intentions to deny benefits and driver's licenses to young adults who qualify for the program, and now some Tennessee lawmakers are looking to follow suit.
The program would give young undocumented immigrants the opportunity to obtain work visas to stay in the country.
"We have so many young, talented highly motivated Americans that have been wanting to contribute and wanting to give back," said Eben Cathey, with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.
State Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, has successfully led the fight to pass several laws tightening the rules on immigrants in Tennessee. Now, Carr is taking his fight to the governor's office, meeting with staff about how the president's new program could impact the state.
The one thing lawmakers won't have to try to stop are driver's licenses, because immigrants who receive a deferred deportation in Tennessee won't be eligible for a license.
"Each state uses a different set of criteria by which to legitimate that the person applying for that license is who they say they are. In Tennessee, we require a birth certificate," Carr said.
However, if there are other public benefits made available - such as welfare or TennCare - Carr said lawmakers will not waste any time.
"We will be very, very quick to respond with the legislation necessary to deal with this issue in the event that it has an unintended consequence that hurts Tennesseans," Carr said.
And while that may not be surprising to groups that help undocumented workers apply for the program, some said it is still upsetting.
"They are trying to change the rules. This is a very sensible, pragmatic program that is allowing these young people a chance to contribute," Cathey said.
For now, Carr said lawmakers are still waiting to see if any legislative action is necessary. But, he added he plans to keep close tabs on it, especially since he said the number of those interested in the program in Middle Tennessee proves to him that there are many undocumented immigrations living in the area.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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