Gov. Jan Brewer leaves the Maricopa County Elections Facility with her spokesman Matthew Benson, right, after casting her ballot in the primary election in Phoenix, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Michael Schennum)

Jan Brewer: I don’t hate Hispanics, I blame parents of undocumented children

PHOENIX (AP) — Gov. Jan Brewer said Tuesday the federal government and parents of young undocumented immigrants are at fault as she defended her order denying driver’s licenses and other public benefits to those who get work authorizations under a new Obama administration policy.

Brewer said she doesn’t hate Hispanics or immigrants but that she’s reaffirming the intent of state laws denying public benefits to illegal immigrants.

“I think everybody in Arizona (and) across the country has compassion for those children that have been brought here illegally by their parents,” Brewer said. “But it is not our responsibility. It is their parents’ responsibility. They need to follow the law.”

Brewer’s order denying benefits for people who qualify for the deferred deportation policy was criticized by advocates as cold-hearted, misguided and legally questionable.

But it was not surprising in the wake of the Republican governor’s battles with President Barack Obama’s administration over the state’s 2010 immigration enforcement law and related issues.

Brewer reiterated her call for tighter border security. Once the border is secure, Washington can then tackle other immigration-related concerns, she said.

“It’s an unfortunate situation, but certainly something that needs to be addressed, and I believe it’s the federal government that needs to address that, and they need to do it by changing the law, and they need to work through the Congress and do what they need to do in order to rectify what has taken place,” Brewer said.

The federal government said in July that apprehensions for immigration violations had dropped to the lowest level in 40 years, reflecting a decline in undocumented immigrants’ northbound travel from Mexico. Likely reasons include the economy and increased U.S. enforcement.

Brewer said her order was intended to make sure that state agencies adhere to the intent of state laws denying public benefits to undocumented immigrants.

But she also said she’s against changing those state laws to allow public benefits for people qualifying for deferred deportation.

“No, I believe people ought to be here legally and they ought to be here with a lawful presence,” she said.

Brewer spoke with reporters after casting an early ballot for the state’s primary election next week.

At a courthouse several blocks away, a federal judge heard arguments on a request by opponents of the 2010 law to block implementation of its most contentious section.

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