A new immigration program, dubbed Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, goes into effect today. The program was created under President Obama’s executive order, signed in June, stating that the US will no longer seek the deportation of young illegal immigrants without criminal records who came to the US as children, and instead allow them to request deferred action for two years, subject to renewal, and also apply for work permits. However, since the new program was created as a result of an executive order it can be easily overturned by future presidents. Therefore, President Obama is still strongly encouraging Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would make these changes permanent.

Individuals who meet five criteria will be eligible under the new deferred action process. The criteria require that the individual entered the US before age 16; lived in the US for five years and still lives in the US; is enrolled in school, graduated from high school, obtained a GED certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran; does not have a criminal record and does not pose a threat to security; and is no older than age 30.

In a Department of Homeland Security press release, Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote, “Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner. 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.”

The new process does not provide a pathway to citizenship, but it does represent a major policy shift. The application fee for the program is $465, and applications and instructions are available at www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals. The Pew Hispanic Center expects as many as 1.7 million youths to qualify for the program.

Obama said the policy change is “the right thing to do.” When he announced the program he said undocumented children “study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, befriend our kids, pledge allegiance to our flag. It makes no sense to expel talented young people who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans.”

Media Resources: Feminist Daily Newswire 6/15/12; CNN 8/15/12; Chicago Tribune 8/15/12

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