Obama’s Deferred Action: A Temporary Relief to DREAMers22 June 2012
Emmanuel was seven years old when he travelled to the United States with his parents. After the period for their authorized immigration stay expired, his parents decided to stay on as undocumented immigrants. Emmanuel is now 20 years old. Being an undocumented immigrant, Emmanuel has no valid driver’s license and social security card. Emmanuel stopped going to school and is one of many who are looking forward to passage of the DREAM Act so they can be granted resident status and eventually become U.S. citizens.
There are approximately 800,000 DREAMers, the young immigrants who are undocumented. They were brought to the United States by their parents at a tender age. The decision to travel to the United States was not theirs. Neither was it their choice to become undocumented. Emmanuel is a DREAMer.
In five months, the U.S. presidential election will take place. Seeking re-election, President Obama issued a policy in support of the DREAMers. The current Congress stalled the passage of the DREAM Act and realizing the difficulty of passing a bill through congress, the President announced his administration’s new policy of “Deferred Action for Young Immigrants”. This new policy directs the Department of Homeland Security to halt the deportation of DREAMers. Under this directive, the young undocumented immigrants will be issued employment authorization cards.
Deferred Action Policy
Those who will benefit from the Obama deferred action policy includes undocumented immigrants younger than 30 years old who were brought to the United States before the age of 16 and have lived in the United States for at least five years. They must also have no criminal record, have earned a high school diploma, remains in school or served in the military. If DREAMers meet these requirements, they will be granted a 2-year deferral from deportation or removal. Work permits or employment authorization documents will also be issued to allow them to legally work.
President Obama announced this deferred action policy in an attempt to provide reprieve to young innocent immigrants. This is a continuing effort from last year’s “prosecutorial discretion” policy where the undocumenteds were classified from high to low priorities. Those considered high priorities are felons, repeat border crossers and others who are considered security risks.
Unlike what was proposed in the DREAM Act, the deferred action policy is only a two-year relief. This allows qualified DREAMers to apply for employment authorization for only that two-year period. No permanent resident status will be given to DREAMers.
Band Aid Solution
The immigrant community and advocates welcomed President Obama’s deferral policy as a positive development for the thousands of undocumented young individuals who have been waiting for many years to obtain status. While it does not grant any resident status, the fact that it provides temporary relief is gratifying to young immigrants who are now given the chance to move on with their schooling or careers.
There are, unfortunately, those who are not too happy with this deferred action policy. The Republicans claim that this temporary solution only complicates the matter of providing a more permanent solution to the DREAMers. If Governor Romney wins the November presidential election, there is no guarantee that this new policy will remain. If so, the thousands of young immigrants will again be deprived of their ability to work and stay in the absence of a grant of the deferred action.
Another criticism that was raised after the announcement of this new policy is that those who will be granted work permits will be competing for jobs in a limited job market. The hope, however, is that most of the young immigrants will opt to continue their schooling instead of competing in the job market. Most of the young immigrants are also likely to be skilled workers and talented individuals who will contribute and stir economic growth instead of propelling an increase in unemployment rate.
No Green Cards
The congressional bill called the DREAM Act would have allowed young undocumented immigrants to apply for green cards and was a pathway to U.S. citizenship. As soon as they become U.S. citizens, they will have the opportunity to petition their parents. In contrast to the DREAM Act, the current deferred action policy will not provide resident status, which means that no green card will be issued.
Many were elated when President Obama announced last week the deferred action policy. While it has a positive and hopeful effect, the uncertainty that it provides after two years is also giving pause to many. The children’s application for deferred action, for example, may expose the parents who are still undocumented. If a new President is elected and revokes deferred action, will these DREAMers be subjected to removal? While many are excited, still there are those who remain fearful. There are mixed reactions from those who are affected by this policy. Still it is expected that a significant number of DREAMers who have waited patiently for many years to be granted status are expected to take the risk and apply. This piece-meal benefit of deferred action may be a road to the dream but is not yet the attainment of the DREAM.
(Tancinco may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 887 7177 or 721 1963)