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Obama’s deferred action: Temporary relief to DREAMers

Emmanuel was seven years old when he traveled to the United States with his parents. After their visas expired, his parents decided to stay on as undocumented immigrants. Emmanuel is now 20 years old. Being an undocumented immigrant, he 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 the passage of the DREAM Act so they can be granted legal residency status and eventually become US citizens.

DREAM Act is an acronym for “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors,” a legislative proposal introduced in the American congress in 2001, which provides a pathway for permanent residency for illegal immigrants who entered the US as minors.

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This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal individuals of good moral character, who graduated from US high schools or remain in school, who have served in the military, and who have lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment.

There are approximately 800,000 DREAMers—young immigrants who are undocumented.  They were brought to the US by their parents at a very young age. The decision to go to the US was not theirs. Neither was it their choice to become undocumented.  Emmanuel is a DREAMer.

FEATURED STORIES

The US presidential election is up in five months.  Realizing the difficulty of passing the Dream Act bill through congress, the President announced his support for the bill and 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, young undocumented immigrants will be issued employment authorization cards.

Deferred action policy

Those who will benefit from Obama’s deferred action policy are  undocumented immigrants younger than 30 years old who were brought to the US before the age of 16 and have lived in the US for at least five years. They must also have no criminal record. If DREAMers meet the requirements, they will be granted a two-year deferral from deportation or removal. Work permits or employment authorization documents will also be issued to allow them.

Band-aid solution

There are those who are not too happy with this deferred action policy. The Republicans, for one, 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. It is likely that thousands of young immigrants will again be deprived of their ability to stay and work.

Another criticism raised after the announcement of this new policy was that those who will be granted work permits would compete for jobs in a limited market.  The hope, however, is that most of the young immigrants will opt to continue their schooling.  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 the unemployment rate.

No green cards

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The DREAM Act would allow young undocumented immigrants to apply for green cards as a pathway to US citizenship. As soon as they become 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 of an immigrant’s status after two years is also giving pause to many. The children’s applications for deferred action, for example, may expose their parents who are still undocumented. If a new president is elected and revokes deferred action, will these DREAMers be subjected to removal?

A significant number of DREAMers who have waited patiently for many years to be granted legal status are expected to take the risk and apply. This piecemeal 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 [email protected] or at 8877177 or 7211963)

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TAGS: Barack Obama, Dream Act, Immigration, Migration, United States, US
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