Immigration Reform – The [Temporary] American DREAM

by Wendy Lau

 

On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama announced immigration relief for undocumented youth. The new immigration provisions would prevent eligible youth from deportation and allow them to qualify for work authorization. Deferred action, the term used to classify this measure, is based on the policy that the deportation of undocumented youth, many of whom regard the United States as home, is a low priority.

 

Until now, the only hope for permanent residency was the passage of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which created a pathway to citizenship. However, the DREAM Act failed to pass in December of 2010, causing many undocumented youth to face the reality of deportation. Undocumented youth have limited opportunities. They do not qualify for financial aid or scholarships, making higher education and careers almost inaccessible.

 

In addition, undocumented immigrants run the risk of deportation in their daily lives.

 

The new measure is aimed to prevent such deportations from occurring. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) memorandum states the following criteria for eligibility. Those seeking relief:

  • Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  • Have continuously presided in the United States for at least five years prior to the memorandum and are present in the United States as of June 15, 2012 (the date the memorandum was issued);
  • Are currently in school, graduated high school, obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or honorably charged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  • Have 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 not above the age of 30.

 

The new measures also add protections for those currently in removal proceedings. Procedures to request deferred action will be in place 60 days from June 15, 2012. After being granted deferred action, DHS has discretion whether to grant work authorization to eligible youth. It is unclear whether these new measures include a pathway to citizenship.

 

About 1.4 million undocumented youth could benefit from the new provisions. Community groups, such as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, are currently holding community forums to answer questions regarding the new provisions. Families and youth will be able to speak to attorneys and organizers about eligibility at these events.


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