New Immigration Policy Offers Hope to the DREAM-Act Eligible

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Julia Preston, national immigration correspondent for the New York Times, discusses the Obama administration's announcement that it would stop deporting young immigrants brought here as children.

Immigrants and supporters of the DREAM Act had some good news recently. President Obama announced that the government would be focusing future deportation efforts on people who commit crimes and not on otherwise law-abiding DREAM Act-eligible citizens.

The DREAM Act would allow children brought into the country without documentation to become citizens upon completion of either two years of college or two years in the military. Congress has refused to pass the legislation, but supporters continued to work toward a path to immigration reform.

Julia Preston said it is true that people who commit crimes are already prioritized for deportation. What is different now is that deportations will actually be canceled for people already in proceedings. A working group from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice will be going case-by-case through the approximately 300,000 cases that are already people in deportation proceedings to cancel the deportations of eligible people. In addition the administration will be more forceful in training immigration enforcement officials so that removal proceedings are not initiated against people who would be DREAM Act-eligible.

The move will make people eligible to work in the country, but Preston said it is important to be clear about the limitations of that.

It will no confer any positive status, only Congress could that, by passing the Dream Act… the kids who are in this situation by avoiding deportation will be in a kind of legal limbo.

Not everyone affected, of course, will be a kid. Many of the people most likely to feel the impact of the decision are college-age.

We’re talking about a pretty large number of people across the country, as many as three-quarters of a million, 750,000 people, across the country, who might immediately be eligible if the DREAM Act were to pass.

Under existing law it is possible for immigration authorities to grant work permits to people who have their deportation proceedings continued but the actual deportation canceled. Preston said that means those people already in proceedings who have their deportation canceled due to the decision may become eligible for permits, but it’s not automatic or guaranteed.

If these young people can get a permit, then that brings a social security number, and that brings the possibility of doing what so many of them want to do, which is go to college at the in-state resident tuition rate. The big issue for a lot of these kids is.. they can’t afford to go to college.. they can’t afford to pay the –out-of-state rates.

The policies regarding eligibility for in-state tuition do vary state-to-state, and in New York, undocumented students can already attend college at in-state rates.

Young immigrants who have not had deportation proceedings initiated will not have this option, so in a way those who remain undetected are in a worse place than those in proceedings now.  Preston said to be clear, this is still not the DREAM Act , but for those still under-the-radar, this order will still bring benefits, as the policy becomes to leave them alone.

They can have a more public life than they had before.


Julia Preston


More in:

Comments [15]

Mike from Inwood

The Truth from Becky states: "It is not their fault that we cannot secure our borders properly!"

It is not my fault that conservsatives who want to 'break the unions' control the government and refuse to secure the borders.

Aug. 24 2011 12:16 PM
Mike from Inwood

@Jeannine from yonkers, ny:

Sorry. You sare a NYC public school teacher; property taxes do not fund you. As a NYC taxpayer, I'm not in favor of illegal aliens sending their children to the schools that I support. Teachers also tell us that the overcrowding of NYC public schools prevents extra attention being paid to students who need it. The shortage of supplies is legendary. And this all so that employers can hire restaurant help or cab drivers at such low wages that they will need food stamps to make it? I'm sure your sense of empathy makes you a great teacher, but that doesn't mean deportation wouldn't be the best policy for our country.

Aug. 24 2011 12:11 PM
Mike from Inwood

@Jeannine from yonkers, ny:

I'm sure your empathy make you a great teacher, but I wonder how the people paying school taxes in Yonkers feel about this.

Aug. 24 2011 12:04 PM
Mike from Inwood

Andy asks: "Aren't illegal immigrants usually adding to the tax coffers without using the services they help fund nearly as much as the average citizen?"

Many illegals work for cash and pay no taxes, although some pay taxes. It is illegal for a NYC employee to ask about immigration status when people apply for foodstamps. A study many years ago indicated that illegals contributed (on a national level) roughly as much in taxes as they received in direct benefits (e.g. food stamps) but obviously they also increase the costs for education, police, fire prevention, water & sewage, etc.

Aug. 24 2011 12:00 PM
Jeannine from yonkers, ny

I am a teacher in a NYC public high school. I see undocumented students everyday, working tirelessly to make a way for themselves and their families. I see the disappointment in their faces when I have to tell them that, for their own good, they cannot fill out FAFSA, they cannot apply to colleges outside of NYC, and that all their hardwork is for naught. I understand that people believe "illegals" will take "our" jobs. However, we live in a country where anything is possoble. Americans and America strive because of our ingenuity, not because we waited for someone to hand us something. Tomorrow's jobs and careers are being created by today's youngest dreamers; and that includes undocumented students.

Aug. 24 2011 11:58 AM
Mike from Inwood

@Lee - I don't think Obama was trying to 'woo Republicans' by enforcing existing immigration laws. While Obama said that immigration reform was necessary when he campaigned, he never outlined what that reform might be and many people with opposing views all assumed he was talking to them.

One thing that people opposed to deportation seem to assume is that it is somehow a terrible thing to live in Mexico or whatever country illegal immigrants have come from. People fleeing oppression seem to go to whatever country is adjacent to theirs and no one is fleeing Mexico or Canada because of oppression. People are here for economic reasons. Even the objects of the 'Dream Act' would not have terrible lives if were forced to move back (largely to Mexico) with a US high school education and some bilingual ability.

Aug. 24 2011 11:55 AM
The Truth from Becky

annnd....stop acting like we are a country of overachievers...we have "legally" born and legally immigrated children who drop out of school daily or refuse to go to college period.

Stop the deportation madness!

Aug. 24 2011 11:49 AM

Aren't illegal immigrants usually adding to the tax coffers without using the services they help fund nearly as much as the average citizen?

Aug. 24 2011 11:48 AM
Zach from UWS

The last caller proved it with her last statement "all THEY have taken from US." In the end, this all comes down to tribalism.

Aug. 24 2011 11:48 AM
The Truth from Becky

It is not their fault that we cannot secure our borders properly!

Aug. 24 2011 11:47 AM

The guest just said exactly what the problem here is - Obama tried to woo Republican support first, by keeping up with deportations, not putting anything through Congress, and has now given up on it and going to the other side. There's no feeling behind this; just a calculation.

Aug. 24 2011 11:44 AM
David in Fredericksburg, VA from Fredericksburg, VA

Which part of ILLEGAL is unclear?
Just as we don't let the family of murder victims decide what constitutes justice for the murderer; letting emotion dictate policy on illegals is a bad idea.

As for the Dream Act - I actually agree that people that serve in the military should qualify for citizenship. But it is sickening that people are trying to equate putting your life on the line (at least potentially) for the US is no greater value than going to college. I do NOT think illegals that serve their own interests should qualify for citizenship.

Aug. 24 2011 11:44 AM
Jake from Manhattan

What about the moral hazarrd argument ? The message to potential immigrants is don't go through the proper channels, break into this country any way you can, we'll take care of you.

Aug. 24 2011 11:44 AM

A political move, the congress out of town, no oposition, 15 million U.S. citizens looking for work, lets worry about the illegals, will they be eligible for entitlements, food stamps etc.?, maybe free housing for them

Aug. 24 2011 11:40 AM

I'd like to see something like this go through out of political principal. i.e. that Obama & his administration actually want this to happen, not just when their numbers are low and political capital is at its nadir.

Aug. 24 2011 11:36 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by