Whether it was progressive policymaking or a shrewd political move, President Barack Obama’s announcement to stop deportations for some undocumented immigrants in June was hailed as victory by immigrant rights activists. Since the 2001 introduction of the federal “DREAM Act” bill, which would grant higher education and a path to citizenship for undocumented youth, many of these youth have organized one of the strongest online and offline movements in American history. They staged sit-ins in June at Obama campaign offices around the country, putting additional pressure on the Administration and later resulted in Obama’s deferred action announcement.
This month, the Department of Homeland Security will release additional details on how to apply for the deferred action program. What we know so far is that applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis for those who meet specific criteria, such as completing education or military service, meeting a certain number of years of U.S. residency, reaching a certain age, and having a clean criminal record. Those who are granted deferred action get a guarantee that they will not be deported for two years, with an option to extend that period.
Regardless of this promise, many eligible undocumented youth still remain in danger of eventual deportation. For instance, Daniela Pelaez, a high school valedictorian from Florida, found out that she may still be deported as she prepares for her freshman year at Dartmouth College this fall, with immigration authorities promising only to hold off for two years before initiating deportation proceedings again.
The feeling that deferred action is only temporary has caused frustration among immigrant rights advocates and undocumented immigrant communities, who continue to be on alert.
Deferred action serves as only a temporary solution to our nation’s problem of undocumented immigration. Immigrant youth hesitate to apply for fear that if Obama is not re-elected, they may fall to the whims of Mitt Romney, who has vowed to veto the DREAM Act should it ever reach his desk as president.
“As it [deferred action] is a policy change, a new administration could simply reverse the policy,” Uy said. “Further, there is no guarantee as to what will happen to the families of eligible students, as the guidance does not contemplate what the government will do with the information gathered from the eligible students in their applications. As such, many students and youth are afraid to apply at this point.”