The plan temporarily prohibits the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from deporting eligible young undocumented immigrants. To qualify, applicants must be currently between 15 to 30 years old, have come to the United States before they were 16, and have lived here five consecutive years. Further, they must be enrolled in high school or have graduated or obtained a GED and pass a background check. Deferred deportation expires after two years at which time people would need to re-apply. Those who meet these criteria would be eligible to apply for a work permit also.
Obama’s directive temporarily removes from many young immigrants the fear of deportation. Last year the infamous Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement Agency of the DHS almost deported the then 23-year-old Mariano Cardoso Jr. within two months of his graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Engineering from Capitol Community College in Hartford. Mariano’s family had emigrated from Mexico when he was just two years old!
Student activists from Stop the Raids, a Trinity College organization, and Connecticut Students for a Dream, led a coalition of progressive organizations including the Working Families Party, People of Faith CT and the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission to protest in front of the Federal Building in Hartford and lobby Senator Richard Blumenthal to halt Mariano’s deportation.
Although the Deferred Action directive will save immigrants like Mariano from deportation, the program has a couple of serious limitations. First, it grants only a two-year reprieve, forcing immigrants to re-apply biennially. Second, it is an administrative directive of the Obama administration that would likely be revoked if Mitt Romney becomes president given his “self-deportation” stance on immigration during the Republican primaries. Furthermore it is frightening to think about what a Romney administration might do with a database of self-reported undocumented immigrants. For this reason many eligible immigrants will probably refrain from applying for deferred action until after the presidential election this fall.
Many immigrant rights organizations advocate passage of the DREAM Act -- Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. Not only would the DREAM Act halt deportations, it would also provide immigrants with permanent residency and a path to obtaining United States citizenship. The act was filibustered by Senate Republicans in 2010.
While Republicans bear much of the responsibility for the defeat of the Dream Act, President Obama’s lack of leadership -- beyond lip service support – is also a major factor. He could have introduced his “Deferred Action on Undocumented Immigrant Youth” directive soon after taking office and certainly after the defeat of the DREAM Act two years ago. His timing now, five months before the election, smacks of opportunism as he courts the Latino vote. Meanwhile undocumented immigrants, a majority being Latino, are forced to fend off criminalization by the Republican Party versus manipulation as pawns by the Democrats.
The “Own The Dream CT” Coalition is hosting application clinics to help students complete their applications for free with a qualified lawyer. To view the upcoming sessions visit the coalition's website.