Contributed by Aaron Hall
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decision to halt deportations for those known as DREAMers, who were brought to this country as young children and have pursued education or military service without any significant criminal history, has been met with broad public support. Those who are approved under the new policy will be offered a grant of deferred action. Deferred action will allow them to apply for work authorization cards which would be valid for a period of two years at a time. A Bloomberg Poll of likely voters released on Tuesday shows independents backing the new policy by a two-to-one margin and 64% of all likely voters voicing their approval.
Despite the broad support, critics of the new policy have labeled it as a back-door amnesty and an unlawful abuse of authority by the Obama administration. Such critics are wrong on both counts.
Deferred action gives neither amnesty nor immunity to these DREAMers. Rather, it is a temporary and imperfect fix which does not create a pathway to citizenship, a green card, or any other permanent status. These youth will not be able to vote and will not be eligible to file immigration petitions for their family members. A future change in enforcement policy could easily subject them to a looming deportation again.
DHS enacted its new enforcement policy as a form of prosecutorial discretion. While DHS has been deporting people at record rates during the current administration, there are simply more people present in this country unlawfully than DHS has the resources to deport. Because of its limited resources, DHS leadership is forced to decide which people will be the highest deportation priorities and which will be the lowest. DHS has used its prosecutorial discretion to decide, quite sensibly, that for the time being, the highest priority will be criminal offenders who put our communities at risk and that the lowest priority will be these youths known as DREAMers. Existing regulations state that those who are granted deferred action as low priority cases can be given employment authorization so that they can support themselves while they are in this country. So despite the outrage of critics, the new DHS policy has been adopted under the long-recognized principle that an enforcement agency has discretion on who to prosecute first with its limited resources and under existing regulatory authority to issue employment authorization to those classified as lower priority cases.
Deferred action will finally allow some of our most talented and driven youth who were brought to this country as children to step out of the shadows and contribute fully to our communities. I believe that those who have not gotten to know some of these young students, engineers, aspiring armed service members, and entrepreneurs will be impressed by their capacity and ambition. DHS should be applauded for developing a compassionate and sensible policy consistent with existing law and encouraged to implement straight-forward procedures for these DREAMers to come out of the shadows as quickly as possible. We can only hope that Congress observes the popularity of this measure and the coming contributions of these DREAMers and finally takes the initiative to pass the DREAM Act to achieve a permanent and stable resolution in place of this temporary fix.
Aaron Hall is an immigration attorney with Joseph Law Firm, P.C. in Aurora.