A Victory for DREAMers
Texas Immigrant Advocates:
DREAM Act Back on Front Burner
AUSTIN, Texas — With the Obama administration's decision Friday to defer the threat of deportation for hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented U.S. residents, immigration is fast emerging as the sleeper issue this election season.
Texas border-community advocates are predicting an increase in political activity by so-called “DREAMers” — individuals brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children — as they feel more free to speak out without fear of revealing their legal status.
Esther Reyes, a member of the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, says risk-taking DREAMers who have been occupying Obama campaign offices around the country in recent weeks deserve much of the credit for the new policy.
“This is a result of the work of the students, more than anything. It was certainly a testament to their hard work and their boldness and courage to stand up for their rights and justice.”
The Texas Civil Rights Project hailed the Obama Administration's decision to stop deporting and begin giving work permits to younger undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have since led law-abiding lives.
TCRP Director Jim Harrington called the decision “fair and just.”
“It's not been fair to penalize young people whom their parents have brought to the United States without proper documentation.
“Nor was it fair to deport them back to countries they've never known, many without the ability to speak the language or without family with whom they could live.
“It was also unfair to them and to our society that these young people could not get a higher education or become productive members of our community. The prior policy had created a sub-class of young people who had to live in fear in the shadows of society.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the decision was just the latest step in the administration's year-old commitment to focus deportation efforts on unsavory criminals. Eligible immigrants can request deportation relief in two-year increments, as well as apply for work permits.
While Reyes applauds the move, she says groups like the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition — which she directs — will be monitoring its implementation to be sure applicants and their families aren't exposed to unexpected legal risks. She adds that the effect of the policy shift will be limited, unless Congress bolsters it with legislation.
“We also need full, permanent relief for our undocumented students, because this does not provide a path to citizenship. That is what all undocumented immigrants in this country really are fighting for: to be recognized.”
In 2010, “DREAM Act” legislation won majority support in both houses of Congress, but did not survive a filibuster. Reyes hopes the renewed political focus on immigration issues will eventually lead to comprehensive reform of the nation's entire immigration system.
Critics call the Obama policy a politically motivated overreach of authority and backdoor amnesty. Texas Congressman Lamar Smith says it will have “horrible consequences” for unemployed Americans. However Reyes counters that bringing immigrants out of the shadows will allow them to contribute more fully to the economy.
“These undocumented youths have demonstrated their commitment to this country. We have to recognize what they're actually doing.”
The government has set up a hotline, 1-800-375-5283, for questions about eligibility and how to request “deferred action status.”
Peter Malof, Public News Service – TX
Attorneys, Immigrants Laud Obama Decision
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Obama administration policy announced Friday will stop the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and allow them to obtain work permits. Although there are some stipulations, El Paso, Texas, attorney Daniel Caudillo says the atmosphere at the annual immigration lawyers' conference in Nashville, Tenn., over the weekend was one of celebration.
View DREAM advocate Gaby Pacheco speaking at the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington DC (ABC News)
“We're excited to see cases like these come to a halt. I can very quickly think of several cases where there was nothing else that we could do. We ran out of options and that person had to ultimately leave the only country that they've known as home.”
Opponents complain the deferred-action order is political and merely a stopgap. Caudillo points out that, at this time, there is limited information about how the order will be implemented.
Marcela Diaz is the executive director of a statewide immigrant advocacy organization known as Somos un Pueblo Unido. She says that while this order will not affect a large population of New Mexicans, it will have a more immediate, positive effect because of state education policies.
“Back in 2005, in a statewide effort that Somos activists and — ultimately — legislators moved forward, undocumented immigrant students have access to in-state tuition and financial aid.”
A recent graduate of the University of New Mexico, Mayté Garcia, has been working for passage of the Dream Act since before Barack Obama was President. During the Iowa caucuses in 2008, she appeared on C-SPAN, posing a question to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I asked her if the Dream Act was a priority of hers in her first 100 days. She didn't respond to the question, but she said she would look into it.”
Garcia says this declaration by President Obama means everything to her. She describes the first thing she plans to do to celebrate his decision.
“I am going to hold my daughter in my arms and cry and pray and say thank you for this opportunity.”
Garcia says Obama's administrative order is at least a temporary end to living in limbo. It means she can return to school and will be able to teach in this country.
Beginning today, individuals can call the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hotline, 1-800-375-5283, or the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hotline at 1-888-351-4024, with questions or to request more information on the forthcoming application process.
Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service – NM