An executive order issued last week by President Barack Obama might be enough to allow illegal immigrants in Arizona to receive a state driver’s license. The issue is still being debated by state officials, but it seems as if, under existing Arizona state law, if someone can prove they have permission to be in the United States, and have the identification papers to accompany it, they qualify for a state issued driving license.

This is a difficult predicament for state authorities who could see a mass increase in the number of illegal immigrants applying for state issued driving licenses. It is estimated there are approximately 50,000 such persons currently living in the state of Arizona. It is also a difficult situation for police who might find themselves having to handle drivers who are unable to speak or read English, or might fear prosecution and therefore are more likely to flee from police.

So far all of this is simply conjecture as states begin to receive the new federal regulations as outlined i the executive order. Until the dust settles it remains unclear how this issue will impact the issuance of state driving licenses, but it seems a guarantee they will be effected somehow.

Tim Tait, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Wednesday his agency is studying last week’s directive that allows many who were brought to the country 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 both identity and legal presence in this country. The same requirement exists for non-operator identification cards issued by ADOT.

Technically speaking, Friday’s move does not grant legal status 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 in this country legally.