Obama Administration Stops Deporting, Grants Work Permits To Young Immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will stop the deportation of young immigrants who meet certain criteria effective immediately, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced on June 15, 2012. In a press release from the office of the Press Secretary, the DHS lists these criteria as:

  • Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  • Are not above the age of thirty.

The young person must also not pose a risk to national security of public safety. Those that meet the criteria will receive deferred action on deportation for two years, which is treated on a case-by-case basis and subject to renewal after the two year period, and be eligible to apply for a work permit. According to an article on MSNBC.com, officials estimate approximately 800,000 young illegal immigrants could be affected.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” Secretary Napolitano says in the release. “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.”

While the legislation works to make it easier for young immigrants to work legally in the U.S., some fear the new policy, which requires immigrants to request deferment by providing verifiable documentation to prove they meet the criteria, will lead to deportation proceedings under a future administration.

Craig J. Regelbrugge, vice president for Government Relations & Research for the American Nursery & Landscape Association, addresses this in an article he wrote on the topic:

“The Administration’s new policy really is a sort of stop-gap measure rather than a lasting resolution of the issue. Eligible and otherwise law-abiding young people can seek a waiver from deportation in the form of a two-year ‘deferred departure’ status, with the possibility of authorization to work. The status may be able to be extended beyond two years. Yet, the policy change could be blocked by the courts, or a new administration might reverse it, or Congress might act and take a different direction. Indeed, a more lasting and complete solution will take an act of Congress.

“Some people now working in the green industry under false documents may be eligible, but should they rush to the nearest Homeland Security office and admit their status? Not so fast, say many advisors. Better to let those who are already in deportation proceedings go first, and learn from their experience. History has shown such policy changes are often unevenly applied, in addition to being subject to possible reversal.”

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