The immigrant community has made some gains in their efforts to protect people from unfair deportation. The victory came Friday June 15, 2012 through an announcement from the Department of Homeland Security. The Obama administration announced today that after tons of pressure from immigrants’ rights groups, they would stop deportations of people came to this country when they were children. They also announced that although they were previously ineligible, these people would now be granted work permits.
In 2010, a bill called the Dream Act was presented before Congress. It took a decade for the bill to get to that point and it was unfortunately rejected. This bill sought to do the very same thing the Obama administration announced that it would do on Friday. It protected the young undocumented immigrants who came to this country when they were children. The bill passed the House of Representative but failed to win support in the Senate and groups have been advocating for similar policies ever since. Today the Obama administration announced that it would protect nearly 800,000 young people who were facing deportation through an executive order.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters that the policy change is not amnesty and it is not immunity but rather an “exercise in discretion”. She described it as part of an overall modification of the Obama administration’s immigration policy. They wish to focus on deporting high-priority undocumented immigrants. By eliminating these young people who came to the United States as children, it allows the administration to focus their funds and efforts more precisely. Despite the critics’ claims, this executive order does not give these people the right to vote nor does it provide them with a path to citizenship. Undocumented immigrants who came to the United States under the age of 16 and have lived in the country for at least five years can apply for the relief, so long as they are under the age of 30. They also must be either an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or armed forces, or a student who has graduated from high school or obtained a GED. Immigrants will not be eligible if they “post a threat to national security or public safety,” including having been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors.
Today, close to a million people who were faced with the threat of forcibly being removed from the country in which they were raised no longer have to think about that possibility. Although many immigrants’ rights groups are optimistic about the decision, there are still those who are cautiously optimistic and are waiting to see how the law will be implemented.
Written by: Kika Ramsay