President Obama today will announce a new immigration policy that stops deportation of some undocumented immigrants and effectively treats “young people” who would be eligible for protections under the DREAM Act as if it had become law. The new policy applies to those who entered the country before they were 16, are non-criminals, have been in the U.S for at least five years, are currently students or have their high school diploma or GED, and/or have been honorably discharged front he U.S. military, and are under the age of 31.
Recognizing that these people, primarily children, teens, and students, were brought into the country and “do not present a risk to national security or public safety,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in a press release “today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children… and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.”
“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano, who will implement the new practice via a DHS directive. “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.”
Travis Waldron at Think Progress observes that the new Obama DREAM-like immigration policy “could benefit as many as one million undocumented students living in the country, and it will almost certainly have tangible benefits for the long-term health of the American economy.” Waldron adds:
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the DREAM Act — which Republicans blocked in 2010 — would increase federal revenues by $1.7 billion over the next 10 years, reducing federal deficits by $2.2 billion over that time. DREAM-eligible students would generate between $1.4 and $3.6 trillion in taxable income over the course of their working lives, according to a study by UCLA’s North American Integration and Development Center.
DREAM-eligible youth could also help fill the 16 million shortfall of college-educated workers that is expected to hit the U.S. by 2025, and with 31.5 percent of science and engineering graduates coming from Latino backgrounds, Obama’s decision could add 252,000 new scientists, engineers, and technical workers to the nation’s dwindling supply in those fields.
The decision will help raise wages for American workers too. “As long as a cheap, compliant pool of undocumented labor is available, employers have every reason to take advantage of the situation, keeping wages as low as possible,” Cristina Jimenez wrote in the American Prospect in 2010. “Only when undocumented immigrants have the ability to exercise complete workplace rights will they help exert upward pressure on wages and labor standards that will benefit other workers.”
The ACLU offered this statement as well, urging Congress to actually pass the DREAM Act:
“Today, the administration has provided these young adults the opportunity to pursue the American Dream,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “For years, DREAMers have lived with the constant nightmare that they will be deported from the only home they’ve ever known. Today, that nightmare has come to an end, at least temporarily.”
While today’s announcement provides a stopgap measure, it does not provide a permanent solution to the problem.
“The administration cannot provide these youth with a path to U.S. citizenship,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU legislative counsel. “The ACLU calls upon all members of Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to the United States as children and graduated from high school.”
For more than a decade, the Department of Homeland Security has deported DREAMers around the country and congressional Republicans have blocked the DREAM Act, despite calls by business executives, military commanders, college presidents, mayors and faith leaders to pass the measure as necessary to safeguard and build America’s economic future.
Today’s announcement comes on the 30th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plyer v. Doe, in which the high court made clear that all children, regardless of their immigration status, must be welcomed in the nation’s public K-12 schools. Earlier this week, the ACLU held a symposium commemorating the anniversary of Plyler, where Victor Palafox, a DREAMer and youth activist, spoke about his fears of deportation by DHS.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.