The Obama Administration announced today a major move to grant deferred action to DREAM-eligible youth. The announcement arrives as a result of growing criticism from undocumented youth and immigrant rights activists over what is largely perceived as a failure by Obama to keep his promises to immigrant communities.
Last week, the American Immigration Lawyers Association called the prosecutorial discretion policy a “failure,” noting the minuscule percentage of cases that have been closed under the policy. In Utah, the state Attorney General had to send ICE Director John Morton a personal email in order to stop the deportation of three mothers who had been living in Salt Lake since their childhood.
While the news comes as a relief to many who have watched the Administration carry out record-breaking deportations – more than any other U.S. president since Eisenhower – many remain skeptical that this new policy will provide the relief it promises.
“I feel like it’s the same thing he said a year ago,” said Luis Serrano, one of the undocumented youth currently occupying the Oakland Organizing For America office. “It’s prosecutorial discretion, just like the last memo.”
Undocumented youth currently occupying Obama campaign offices in Michigan, California and Ohio have vowed to stay put until it’s clear that all DREAM eligible youth will benefit. Those activists were pushing for an Executive Order which would have carried the full force of the law.
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, stated that those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to be taken out of deportation proceedings for at least two years and will be eligible to work. She iterated that immigration laws are not meant to be “blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language.”
By coming from Napolitano and not Morton, the memorandum does have some additional weight. However, local ICE offices have shown themselves to be averse to policy directives from Washington.
Some are calling this the most significant immigration policy in decades; however, until the details of its implementation are known, many remain cautiously optimistic.