Deferred Action A New Life for DREAMers ?
Imagine you’re 16 again. Your birthday is next week. You are about to get your driver’s permit. Your best friend, Mike, got his license last month. For two years you have been saving for your car. Life is good. Then your parents tell you –you can never get a license. You can’t own a car in New Jersey. You are not a United States Citizen. But how can that be, you ask? You speak English! Your whole life has been here! You don’t remember Mexico. Your entire family is here. Why are you different? You wanted to go to college. You learn, you can’t even legally get a job. You can be deported at any moment. Your world has been turned upside down.
This is what almost two million youths face; limited opportunities, because their parents brought them to United States for a better life. Their younger brothers, born here, don’t have this problem. They do.
This is what gave rise to the DREAM Act (the Development Relief and Education of Alien Minors) (S.729/H.R. 1751). It was a bipartisan bill (remember those) that would provide a conditional six-year pathway to legal permanent residence for certain unauthorized youths who, as children, were brought to the U.S. if they: complete high school; demonstrate good moral character; and complete at least two years of higher education or serve at least two years in the U.S. military. Both parties wrote the bill. A year and a half ago, Democrats passed the bill in the House, but the Republicans walked away from it. The bill has not changed. The need has not changed, only the politics. We use to be a country that did what was right. Now we do what is politically convenient.
With the failure of Congress to address this issue, on Friday June 15, 2012, President Obama acted. It is the roll of Congress to pass laws and the President to enforce them. The President can’t create laws, but he can modify the regulations currently in place that enforce the laws. On June 15, 2012 he ordered Deferred Action be extended to the DREAMers. It is not amnesty. It is not immunity. It is not even a path to citizenship. This is by no means a permanent fix. Congress must still act.
The Memorandum issued by Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, sets forth the following criteria for exercising prosecutorial discretion to DREAMers, to be implemented in 60 days:
- came to the United States before turning 16;
- has been in the U.S. for five years prior to June 15, 2012;;
- is currently in school/has graduated from high school/obtained a GED/, or is an honorably discharged of the Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces;
- has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety; and
- is 30 years old or younger.
Deferred action is a discretionary decision to delay removal. It does not provide a path to legal status or citizenship, only Congress can do that. It does not give an individual any legal status. Someone granted deferred action can get a work permit if they show economic necessity. They will also get a social security number and driver’s license. Further, deferred action is only valid for two years. Afterwards, the applicant will have to reapply. If denied, they may face removal to their country of origin.
President Obama’s actions are a good beginning, but it is also an obvious failure to help these youths. I have a particularly affinity for DREAMers. Under different circumstances, I would be one of them. My family came here as tourists and over stayed our visas. Thanks to President Reagan we had a path to permanent residency and ultimately citizenship, something missing today. I grew up here; Studied here; Worked here; and now I can help people just like me. Immigration is personal to me.
Stayed tuned, in days to come I will present you with Senator Robert Menendez’s vision of the DREAM Act. I will then discuss Senator Marco Rubio’s more modest version.