Streams

DREAMers Celebrate Obama Immigration Announcement

Friday, June 15, 2012

President Barack Obama announced today that his administration will cease deporting undocumented immigrant youth who grew up in the United States and who meet a number of requirements. In a significant move, the government will also offer them a chance to apply for work permits. It’s an executive order that bypasses Congress, which failed to enact the DREAM Act in 2010.

“It is the right thing to do,” the president said with uncharacteristic emotion, raising his voice over a heckler. ”We’re a better nation than one that expels innocent young kids.” He asserted that it will make the country’s immigration system ”more fair, more efficient and more just.”

At the midtown headquarters of the New York Immigration Coalition, a group of activists and undocumented youth watched as President Obama made his announcement on live television from the White House Rose Garden.

“It’s a day of victory.  A day of big accomplishment, I think,” said Yohan Garcia, an undocumented student at Hunter College and a self-proclaimed ‘Dreamer.’ “A day where I can actually say that the American Dream, at least for me, has become a reality.”

The policy change has the potential to affect the lives of approximately 1.4 million undocumented youth, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Eligible immigrants are those who were brought to this country before the age of 16, have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least five years, are currently 30 years of age or younger, have clean legal records, are currently in school or have graduated from high school, and those who were honorably discharged from the military. (Read Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s complete memo here.)

The announcement was greeted with jubilation by the immigration activist community in New York City.

We’re really overjoyed,” said Natalia Aristizabal of Make the Road New York.  ”We’ve been fighting for this since the DREAM Act got introduced in 2001.”

Chung-Wha Hong, the executive director of the New York Immigrant Coalition, saw this as a game-changing moment, and a chance to clarify the president’s position.

“Politically, he is fundamentally changing the direction of the debate,” she told Fi2W.  ”The president had always supported the DREAM Act, the thing was what he was saying and what was actually happening on the ground were different.”

Hong saw the the president’s decision as a response to disappointment over his previous policies.

“He has shown the rest of the country that he not only believes in this, but is willing to act on this,” Hong said.  ”And I think that is going to restore faith in his leadership.”

But activists do not consider their work finished.  Under the new policy undocumented youth will still not have access to federal  student loans, and there is no path to citizenship for these youth or for their families. In his speech, the president admitted that this change is a “temporary stop-gap measure,” and he promised that as long as he is president he will not give up on the issue.

“Ultimately, Dreamers deserve a path to citizenship, so that they can be fully integrated into our economy and into our community,” Hong said.

Garcia agreed.

“This is not the whole package, but at least it’s something,” he said.  ”I think we still need to keep pushing for the whole package, for taking steps towards full legalization.”

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Comments [6]

Elizabeth

Mark,

I'm not by any means defending illegal immigrants as being more law-abiding than people who violate criminal laws. My point is that the distinction between civil law-breaking and criminal law-breaking matters to lawyers and judges and prosectors, and they're the people who decide which law breakers get punished and which ones are ignored. The law has its own reality and being an illegal immigrant isn't the same, legally, as being an illegal drug dealer. Legally, being an illegal immigrant is more like being an unlicensed hairdresser (as far as I understand the distinctions).

I agree with you that the distinction is meaningless in informal, everyday discourse and that's why it bothers me when illegal immigrant supporters want to reduce the debate to fine legal distinctions and ignore the obvious: they broke the law by entering the country illegally and they continue to break the law by staying here illegally. I don't think law breakers ought to be rewarded by legalizing their or their children's status, and I fervently hope the DHS's taking no deportation action on the so-called Dreamers doesn't turn out to be the first step on a path to citizenship.

Jun. 17 2012 10:41 AM
Mark

So what? intellectual property violations are civil offenses, are you saying copyright infringement isn't illegal? Maybe my parents should set up a warehouse churning out fake Gucci bags, or should I say "undocumented" Gucci bags after all it's apparently not "illegal"!

Jun. 17 2012 12:19 AM
Elizabeth

Mark,

That's a false analogy. Drug crimes are criminal offenses; being "undocumented" is a civil offense (as far as I can understand American law). This distinction matters in the American legal system.

Unlike vernacular English, where "illegal" is pretty much interpreted to mean "against the law", common English words in American legal language are (pardon moi) "faux amis." As far as I can tell, "Illegal" in legal English refers to a criminal transgression. Illegal immigrants are guilty of a CIVIL transgression and thus, are not legally, "illegal."

Hence, illegal immigrants are NOT analogous to people who violate drug laws.

But kudos to the Simpson ref.

Jun. 16 2012 09:25 PM
Mark

Couldn't someone make the same argument for letting the children of a drug dealer keep their house and cars after getting busted? "Why should children pay for crimes their parent committed". After all confiscating a drug dealers property just hurts his children, think of the children!

Jun. 16 2012 06:56 PM
Elizabeth from Clifton, NJ

I think the business interests in this country tacitly encouraged illegals to come and work in non-union jobs to keep wages down and profits up. I think the continued presence of illegals in the US economy hurts the low-earners most and a second generation of illegals isn't good economic policy. Therefore, I have no objection to President Obama's new deportation policy to ignore the so-called Dreamers.

But economic reality isn't an argument for citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who broke the law and continue to break the laws by staying. Those children ought to be angry at their parents, not the American political system, for their non-status in the US. As a liberal Democrat, I feel no obligation to extend citizenship to people who do not respect the laws of this country.

Jun. 16 2012 05:21 PM
listener

A obvious and cynical election year pander with no regard for the rule of law or consideration for those who spent time, effort and a small fortune legally residing in the country and the unemployed who will now compete with thousands of undocumented people with work permits.
This President only cares about keeping power for himself and his party.

Jun. 15 2012 08:04 PM

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