Forum Center, 6/19

Obama Announces “Deferred Action” on Removal of Younger Illegal Immigrants

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, announced last Friday that, effective immediately, some individuals who are in the country illegally but able to meet certain criteria would be considered immune from deportation from the country. Those eligible, with as many as 800,000 or more thought to be qualified, will receive “deferred action” for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.

The President’s action bypasses Congress and mirrors the goals of the DREAM Act, originally proposed in 2001, a long-sought-but-never-enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who live in the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.

Proponents of the policy argue that President Obama’s announcement creates a fair and smart policy to help protect these young adults at risk of deportation who have spent many years working and establishing their homes in the United States and will at the same time provide a boost the U.S. economy. Although illegal and undocumented, these young Latinos are here in this country through no fault of their own. The Obama administration argues that the policy of selective enforcement allocates resources of removal towards those illegal immigrants with a criminal history, while at the same time giving some kind of assurance to this special class of young immigrants.

Critics of the Administration’s action argue that the President has a duty to uphold the immigration laws currently on the books and this Executive Order, which creates a policy of “deferred action,” usurps Congressional authority. They point out that there are 1 million legal immigrants allowed into the country every year. They argue that with 20 million Americans unemployed, now is not the time to add an additional 800,000 young people competing for scarce jobs. They further argue that this is an election year ploy designed to gain favor with the Latino vote for Mr. Obama in this year’s presidential election.

Some commentators also noted that President Obama’s Friday Rose Garden speech was an effort to neuter legislation dealing with immigration reform proposed by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. Sen. Rubio is widely rumored to be a possible pick by Romney for the Republican vice presidential nomination. This spring, the White House actively lobbied against Rubio’s proposed legislation arguing it that it didn’t go far enough and that it would dilute the goals of the DREAM Act.

Forum Question of the Week:

Is the new DREAM Act-like policy of “deferred action” a reasonable approach to one aspect of the issue of illegal immigrants, or has the Obama administration usurped Congressional authority and acted illegally? 

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