A teaspoon of immigration reform Obama style
Election time is coming up, and how can you tell? New policies and viewpoints are in the air and President Obama is putting up a fight to keep his presidency by making some huge statements.
My dad, who’s from Spain, met my mother in her country, Nigeria. They moved to Spain, had me, and split up a few years later. My mother and I then moved to the U.S. in 1995, overstayed our visas, and I have been here ever since. Note: I am a lawful permanent resident and have been for several years.
Hence the reason for my excitement about Obama’s new immigration plans.
Upon first hearing the announcement that young undocumented immigrants would no longer be deported, I was ecstatic. I thought ‘finally, kids growing up in my situation could now see a way out’. But then I did some research.
Though I appreciate Obama’s willingness to address the immigration issue, as it has been an issue much debated but not actually acted upon, his policy is not as grand as it seems at first glance.
As it stands, Obama has implemented a Deferred Action Process, meaning that people 30 or younger who came into this country at the age of 16 or younger who meet certain criteria can be granted relief from deportation.
Upon further inspection on the Department of Homeland Services website, the Deferred Action process states that only “certain” people meeting this criteria would be granted deferred action. That just doesn’t sound right. How are the “certain” determined?
Deferred Action does not guarantee authorization for employment and only lasts for two years with the option to re-apply at the end of those years. Work authorization is granted if the individual can prove “economic necessity for employment”, whatever that means. I mean, how many undocumented immigrants don’t have the “economic necessity”?
Don’t get me wrong. I get that this is just a first step and the fact that this is even in place is a miracle all on its own. While I do feel it’s a step in the right direction, but to be truly honest, if I were still undocumented, why would I apply for Deferred Action on the hopes that I could be one of the certain few with only two years guaranteed in this country? Couldn’t I just stay under the radar, as is so easy to do in the U.S., and function as I have been previously? There’s just not much incentive to take part in this policy.
Another flaw: this doesn’t help families. Only those meeting the requirements can be saved from deportation, but what about their family? I came to the U.S. at the age of seven, and after 5 years (which is the minimum amount of time living in the U.S. required), I would have been 12. Great, so you can’t deport me, but what about my parents? They’re not safe, so where would that leave me?
If you’re going to put something like this in place, then you need to create a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, deferred action is designed for “individuals who were brought to this country through no fault of their own as children”. If they can’t get citizenship or lawful residency, they’ll be sent back to a country they don’t know with nothing waiting for them.
At the end of the day, this whole thing just seems like a way to have young undocumented immigrants register with the government so the U.S. can keep track of them like they were supposed to in the first place. Which if that’s what it is, then they should just come out and say so. Don’t give false hope where it’s not needed.
So what would be a better solution? For Congress to get moving on the issue.
Hear this and hear this well: I currently have no lean towards any of the presidential candidates. Now that that’s out of the way, I can continue. Just keep the previous statement in mind.
Obama is a firm supporter of the DREAM Act, and according to him, he’s more than willing to sign it and pass it. The Act basically says that if you came here as a child and have been here for at least five years, and you are willing go to college or join the armed forces, you can do so and start on the path to citizenship.
This Act has been around for years now, and has been in Congress’ hands for a while. If they don’t like something with it, then they should reform it. Don’t just knock it and then do nothing with it.
I get that there are other issues Congress is dealing with, and I also get that the Deferred Action Plan was actually something that bypassed Congress. But how long has immigration been in an issue now? As they do nothing, the number of undocumented immigrants grows. Though this plan isn’t even close to ideal, someone had to do something.
At the end of the day, I hope Congress keeps in mind the big picture. In his speech on June 15, as he announced his new plan, President Obama perfectly defined what and who the heart of the matter is:
“These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents — sometimes even as infants — and often have no idea that they’re undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver’s license, or a college scholarship.”