The Obama Administration announced today that it 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 apply for work permits, effective immediately. 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 requirements under the new policy are identical to those under a proposed 2010 Senate bill, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM); though the Obama Administration does not say the new regulations are an administrative version of DREAM. The DREAM Act is particularly important for undocumented women and their children, whose median income is $16,562 lower than US citizens. Without access to legal immigration status, undocumented women are increasingly vulnerable to a vicious cycle of poverty. The new process does not provide a pathway to citizenship, but it does represent a major policy shift.
DHS Press Release 6/15/12; AP 6/15/12; NBC 6/15/12; CNN 6/15/12; Washington Post 6/15/12