With the passing of a new federal immigration policy, an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants nationwide will be able to legally work in the U.S. and avoid deportation.
According to the New York Times, the new policy was announced and made immediately effective Friday by the Obama administration and is similar to .
But unlike the DREAM Act, Obama’s new policy does not grant citizenship. Instead, it allows undocumented immigrants under 30 who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16 and have lived here for five years with no criminal record to obtain work permits and defer deportation. To be eligible, the undocumented immigrants must also have earned a high school diploma, served in the military or stayed in school.
According to the New York Times report, this new action will allow younger undocumented immigrants to apply for a “deferred action” to provide a temporary, two-year relief from deportation. The deferment period may be extended.
Department of Homeland Security officials told media that the policy’s targeted population —young, educated and law abiding — posed little threat.
"Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the New York Times. "But they are not designed 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. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here."
The Department of Homeland Security said it would continue to focus its enforcement on those who pose a threat to national security and public safety.
Obama’s controversial plan is sure to draw national criticism. However, many in the Bay Area, which is home to a large immigrant population, have lobbied for immigration reform in the past and supported previous drafts of the DREAM Act, which was shot down by Congress in 2010.
Many communities, , supported the California DREAM Act, which .
The Asian Law Caucus, a San Francisco-based Asian American civil rights organization, and other groups throughout the state applauded the U.S. government for its new policy.
"In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to working with DREAMers and their families to ensure that they receive the full benefits of this historic opportunity, and encourage them to reach out to our organizations for support," said Hyeon-Ju Rho, executive director of the Asian Law Caucus, in a press release.
"Millions of immigrants have helped build the United States into the successful nation it is today," added Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of the Los Angeles-based Asian Pacific American Legal Center. "This relief will give young immigrants their chance to give back and contribute to America."
However, Obama’s new plan may only be temporary.
Friday’s action was made as an executive order and did not require legislation, the New York Times reports. Due to it being a matter of executive power, the action could be reversed by a future administration.
Since it does not grant undocumented immigrants permanent lawful status and because it could be overturned, officials told the New York Times that it would be up to individuals whether or not to come forward and seek the new immigration services.
What do you think about Obama’s new plan? Should the government allow young undocumented immigrants full lawful status instead of “deferred action”? Or is the government too lenient in its immigration policies?
Tell us in the comments section below.