DHS: No more deportations of young illegal immigrants
Move implements many DREAM Act provisions
The Department of Homeland Security will no longer deport many young illegal immigrants and will grant work permits to those who fall under new criteria, the agency announced Friday.
Those who are free of criminal records and have pursued an education now can expect any potential deportation actions to be deferred up to two years, and that action can be renewed. The young people who meet the criteria also can apply for work permits, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
The rules essentially implement most of the provisions of the DREAM Act through administrative action.
The move is close to the proposal presented by U.S. Sen Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in place of the DREAM Act, in which legal status would be granted, but not citizenship. Rubio has said the DREAM Act amounts to amnesty.
Politically motivated power grab
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the move was purely political on Obama's part.
"Today’s announcement by President Obama is a politically motivated power grab that does nothing to further the debate but instead adds additional confusion and uncertainty to our broken immigration system," McCain said in a news release. "Rather than unilaterally deciding for the American people what they want and how they believe this problem should be addressed, I encourage the president and his administration to finally reach out to Congress and propose legislation on this important issue.”
Gov. Jan Brewer echoed McCain.
“It doesn’t take a cynic to recognize this action for what it is: blatant political pandering by a president desperate to shore up his political base. Likewise, it’s no coincidence all of this comes on the eve of a long-awaited decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Arizona’s ability to assist with the enforcement of immigration law via SB 1070. The American people are smarter than this," Brewer said.
“I’ve been clear that our nation’s immigration system is as broken as our borders," she said. "Unfortunately, today’s piecemeal pronouncement is a dangerous distraction from both problems. I urge the president to finish Job One: Securing the border. Then – and only then – should the president pursue a solution for our immigration system by working with our elected members of Congress.”
President Obama said the rules would be in place to "lift the shadow of deportation from these young people."
Obama, speaking from the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, said the new rules are not to be construed as a free ticket to citizenship. "Let's be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this not a permanent fix. This is the right thing to do."
Napolitano said that those who were brought into the United States illegally as young children likely do not pose a risk to national security and should be exempt from removal from the United States.
"Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” Napolitano said. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
The new rules apply to those who:
- Came into the country before the age of 16
- Have lived in the country or at least five years
- Are currently in school, have graduated from high school or have earned a GED or are honorably discharged veterans
- Have no felony or significant felon records
- Are no older than 30.
Those who meet the new criteria will not be granted permanent resident status, DHS said.
The new policy, which is effective immediately, points to the importance of the Hispanic vote in this fall's elections.
“This is a sensible solution that allows us, as a national community, to help hundreds of thousands of young adolescents trapped in legal limbo," said U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva in a news release. " I applaud President Obama's decision to extend the American dream to a new generation of deserving individuals.
“Those with deep roots in the United States who have contributed immensely to our country’s well-being will -- at long last -- be taken out of the deportation pool so we can concentrate our resources on real threats and serious criminals. This makes our nation safer and upholds our nation’s commitment to fairness and justice, " Grijalva said.
It is expected that about 800,000 people will be covered under the policy shift, DHS said.
According to an estimate from the Pew Hispanic Center, as many as 1.4 million children and young adults will be affected. That number includes 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who are 18 to 30, but came to the United States as children and are currently enrolled in school or have graduated from high school, and an additional 700,000 who are younger than 18 and are enrolled in school. This includes 150,000 who are currently enrolled in high school.
DHS said that although the rules are now in effect, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and ICE will begin to enforce them within 60 days.
“While this change is not a permanent solution, it is a major step in the right direction," Grijalva said.
For more information about the new guidelines, visit USCIS's website, ICE's website or DHS's website. Information is also available through USCIS's hotline at 800-375-5283 or ICE's hotline at 888-351-4024.