Equity & Diversity

Obama Poised to Grant Deportation Relief to Millions of Undocumented Immigrants

By Lesli A. Maxwell — November 19, 2014 3 min read
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By Corey Mitchell

President Obama on Thursday will announce steps he will take to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States from deportation, a move that could have implications for millions of America’s K-12 schoolchildren.

“Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long,” Obama said in a video posted on the White House website Wednesday afternoon.

A Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project report released Tuesday found that, in 2012, children with at least one undocumented immigrant parent accounted for nearly 7 percent of U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade. According to the report, states with the largest shares of students with unauthorized immigrant parents include Nevada, California, Texas and Arizona.

The New York Times reports that Obama’s actions will “remove the threat of deportation for the parents of children who are citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States.”

The Washington Post reports that it remains unclear whether the president’s order will provide deportation reprieves for the parents of children brought to the United States illegally by their parents. Many of those young immigrants have been the beneficiaries of the president’s now two-year-old deferred action policy which has allowed eligible youths to receive deportation relief and temporary work permits.

Obama’s actions might particularly help students from a mixed-status family, where family members have different immigration statuses and some might be undocumented, said Claire Sylvan, executive director of the Internationals Network for Public Schools, a network of 17 high schools around the country that serve newly-arrived immigrants and English-language learners.

“There’s a great deal of psychological uncertainty that makes it very hard for (those) students to fully feel secure,” she said. “If this alleviates that situation, it’s going to create a sense of security for families that will allow students to focus on their schoolwork” instead of worrying their parents or other family members might be deported, Sylvan added.

Schools already are advised not to inquire about a student’s immigration or citizenship status.

This spring, the federal Justice and Education Departments sent guidance to districts across the nation, reminding public schools that they are required to provide all children with equal access to education at the elementary and secondary levels, regardless of their own, or their parents’ or guardians’ citizenship or immigration status.

Obama launched his push for immigration reform in January 2013 in Las Vegas, outlining a plan that would allow many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship. On Friday, he will return to Nevada on the heels of his announcement to rally support for his executive action.

Congressional lawmakers were reluctant to comment Wednesday afternoon on the forthcoming immigration announcement, preferring to wait until they had the full slate of details.

But Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who’s led the conservative wing of the GOP in opposing immigration reform, fired off an op-ed in Politico, slamming the president for defying the limits of his authority.

“Congress, representing the voice of the People, should use every tool available to prevent the President from subverting the rule of law,” wrote Cruz.

He recommended that the next year’s Republican Senate Majority Leader respond to Obama’s executive actions on immigration by refusing to confirm a single executive or judicial nominee, and urged the next year’s Republican-controlled Congress to attach policy riders to future spending bills that would roll back the president’s authority.

In June of 2013, the Senate passed a sweeping overhaul to the country’s immigration laws, garnering votes from 14 Republicans—no small feat. But the House never took up the proposal, largely due to a small and vocal group of conservative within the Republican caucus who oppose a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Lauren Camera and Madeline Will contributed to this report.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.

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