By Karen Brooks
(Reuters) - Illegal immigrants sheltered from deportation under a new federal program still won't be eligible for state services such as driver's licenses in Nebraska, the state's Republican governor said on Friday.
Governor Dave Heineman, in making the announcement, joined Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in challenging the federal government on immigration policy. Two days ago, Brewer issued an executive order barring illegal immigrants from getting state benefits.
"President Obama's deferred action program to issue employment authorization documents to illegal immigrants does not make them legal citizens," Heineman said in a statement.
"The State of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver's licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants unless specifically authorized by Nebraska statute," he added.
The Obama administration's new policy, dubbed "deferred action for childhood arrivals," took effect this week. It grants temporary legal status to many young illegal immigrants, ending the threat of deportation for at least two years. But the policy does not entitle the immigrants to state services.
In Texas, Republican Governor Rick Perry, who earlier this year dropped his bid for the party's presidential nomination, criticized the Obama policy but appeared to stop short of barring deferred action immigrants from obtaining licenses in his state.
Most states, with California and Texas the notable exceptions, deny in-state tuition rates at public universities to illegal immigrants and that won't change for those getting deferrals, unless states take action on their own.
The Pew Hispanic Center estimated as many as 1.7 million people could qualify for the federal program. In Texas, an estimated 170,000 people could benefit, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
(Editing By Andrew Stern, Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara)