The Dream Lives On

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In 2010, the Obama Administration worked to pass the Dream Act, a legislative proposal that was geared to establish a path toward citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants. Congress originally blocked this measure, but today the Obama Administration has come up with a compromise. A new policy has been announced that stops deportation of these immigrants but does not offer them citizenship.

This new policy, effective immediately, will apply to immigrants who are currently under 30 years old, who arrived in the country before they turned 16 and have lived in the United States for five years. They must also have no criminal record, and have earned a high school diploma, remained in school, or served in the military.

Those immigrants who fall under these qualifications, estimated to be about 800,000 people, will be ale to obtain work permits and be safe from deportation. What the immigrants will obtain, officials said, is the ability to apply for a two-year “deferred action” that effectively removes the threat of deportation for up to two years, with repeated extension. Then, immigrants whose deferrals are approved will then be able to apply for work permits, which will be dealt with case by case.

Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, stated that “this is not immunity, it is not amnesty; it is an exercise of discretion.” She said that it made no sense to focus immigration enforcement on people who pose little if any threat to the nation.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Ms. Napolitano. “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.”

In its announcement, the Department of Homeland Security said “it continues to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. Today’s action further enhances the Department’s ability to focus on these priority removals.”

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