White House: No Deportation for Certain Illegal Immigrants

By Chad Burchard | June 22, 2012

Photo: Via Fox News
Last Friday, President Obama announced that his administration will no longer seek to deport illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements.

In a speech at the White House Rose Garden, President Obama said that this new action would make the country’s immigration policy “more fair, more efficient, and more just.”  The policy is aimed at aiding young people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

“These are young people who … 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,” the President said.

He noted that this situation is what gave rise to the DREAM Act, which proposed offering young illegal immigrants the opportunity to earn U.S. citizenship by going to college or serving in the military.  President Obama emphasized that he would have gladly signed the bill, but that “politics” had prevented it from ever making it to his desk.

“Effective immediately,” he declared, “the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.”  President Obama explained that from now on, those who qualify will be able to request temporary relief from deportation and apply for permission to work in the U.S.

In a memo issued the same day as the President’s speech, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano explained that the exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” would be justified for an illegal immigrant who:

  • (1) arrived in the U.S. prior to the age of 16;
  • (2) has continuously resided in the United States for at least five years;
  • (3) is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran;
  • (4) has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety; and,
  • (5) is not over 30 years old.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, as many as 1.4 million illegal immigrants may be eligible for relief from deportation under the President’s new policy.  [Julia Preston and John H. Cushman, Jr., Obama to Permit Young Migrants to Remain in U.S., The New York Times, June 16, 2012.]

“Now, let’s be clear,” President Obama said in his speech, “this is not amnesty.  This is not immunity.  This is not a path to citizenship.  It’s not a permanent fix.”  Because of its temporary nature, he urged Congress to pass the DREAM Act and to pass “comprehensive immigration reform.”

DREAM Act supporters such as Lorella Praeli of the United We Dream Network cheered the news, saying that “[p]eople are just breaking down and crying for joy when they hear what the president did.”  [Julia Preston and John H. Cushman, Jr., Obama to Permit Young Migrants to Remain in U.S., The New York Times, June 16, 2012.]

Although the policy change was similar to one proposed by freshman Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the son of Cuban immigrants opposed the President’s order.  “Today’s announcement will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer, but it is a short-term answer to a long term problem,” Rubio said. “And by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short-term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long term one.” [Obama suspends deportation for thousands of illegals, tells GOP to pass DREAM Act, FoxNews.com, June 15, 2012.]

However, Rep. Lamar Smith (R – TX), a longtime opponent of illegal immigration, issued a press release charging that the President’s announcement “blatantly ignores the rule of law” and that it would have “horrible consequences for unemployed Americans looking for jobs.”

Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin called the election year initiative “a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.”  Malkin criticized the policy change for bypassing Congress and partially achieving “the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.”  [Michelle Malkin, Occupy Open Borders, MichelleMalkin.com, June 15, 2012.]

There is little doubt that the President’s new policy will continue to be a source of controversy as the year goes on.