The Latino Policy Forum is encouraged by the Obama Administration's announcement today to stop deporting certain undocumented youth from the US--a bold move that could affect as many as 1.4 million young people--but continues to call for incremental immigration reform and relief for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the shadows of this country.
"We are encouraged by this positive step forward and the relief that it will potentially provide for a million young people, but we still need a positive, permanent resolution for the other 10 million-plus other undocumented immigrants in this country," said Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum. "Our nation's immigration system is still broken. This is a temporary fix that that could be reversed as quickly as it was implemented by the Executive Branch. Our country still needs a permanent legislative solution."
What did the announcement say?
Effectively immediately, certain young people who were brought to the US will no longer be removed from the country or entered into removal proceedings. Individuals who fulfill all the criteria will be granted deferred action for two years (subject to renewal) and will also be eligible to obtain employment authorization if they can prove that they have an economic need, also subject to renewal after two years. According to a memo released today by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, those eligible to receive deferred action under this new directive include those who:
- Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
- Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
- Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
- Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
- Are not above the age of thirty.
What is deferred action?
Deferred action is a form of administrative relief, applied at the discretion of the Executive Branch, that defers the removal action of an individual. Essentially, this means that an undocumented immigrant will not be deported; however, deferred action does not provide a pathway to citizenship, nor does it absolve individuals of any previous or subsequent periods of unlawful presence.
Under existing regulations, an individual who has been granted deferred action is eligible to receive employment authorization for the period of deferred action, provided he or she can demonstrate "an economic necessity for employment." Deferred action will be granted in two-year increments for those who can prove they are eligible and can be terminated at any time at the agency's discretion.
How can I get more information?
DHS has a robust Q&A page, available in English and Spanish, on their website. Additionally, beginning June 18, individuals may call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 with questions or to request more information on the new process. Individuals with a case pending before the Executive Office for Immigration Review or a federal court may contact ICE's bilingual hotline at 1-888-351-4024 from 9am-5pm for more information beginning June 18.
If you or someone you know faces immediate removal by ICE and satisfies the eligible criteria, contact either the Law Enforcement Support Center's hotline at 1-855-448-6903 (staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) or the ICE Office of the Public Advocate through the Office's hotline at 1-888-351-4024 (staffed 9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday) or by e-mail.
Is this lip service or real change?
Although the Latino Policy Forum is encouraged by today's announcement, it urges the Obama Administration to implement this new directive expeditiously and without delay. This type of change could have been implemented immediately upon President Obama taking office in 2009--thus sparing thousands of families the heartbreak of deportation and separation--instead of just months before November's presidential election.
Moreover, the Forum is pleased to see that this directive has the potential to positively affect over a million individuals, people who have made this country their home but are currently forced into its shadows. However, while similar hopes were raised shortly after last summer's prosecutorial discretion announcement, only a few thousand cases have been administratively closed to date. The Forum will remain guardedly optimistic about the real impact of today's announcement on the immigrant community.
Finally, the Forum continues to call for a permanent fix for this nation's broken immigration system and laws. President Obama and Congress must work together to develop legislation that provides not only a path to residency and citizenship for undocumented youth (a provision of the DREAM Act, which you can continue to support by clicking here), but that also provides relief to the 10 million-plus other undocumented individuals living in the shadows.
For additional details or analysis, contact Isabel Anadon, policy analyst at the Latino Policy Forum.