By guest blogger Liana Heitin
This morning, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that certain undocumented youths who came to the United States at a young age will not face deportation and will be eligible for work permits.
In essence, the new policy, effective immediately, bypasses Congress to implement portions of the DREAM Act, which would have given undocumented youths who had finished college or served in the military a path to citizenship but was blocked by Senate Republicans.
Under the policy shift, individuals qualify for a deferment of removal proceedings for two years—with the possibility of renewal—and the ability to apply for work authorization if they: came to the United States before age 16; have lived in the United States for at least the last five consecutive years; graduated from or are currently in high school, or are an honorably discharged veteran; have not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor; and are 30 or younger.
According to the Associated Press, the policy change will have an impact on as many as 800,000 young immigrants.
In a Rose Garden speech this afternoon, President Obama persistently praised the policy, which he said addresses the needs of “young people sometimes called ‘Dreamers,’” as “the right thing to do.”
“Put yourself in their shoes,” he said. “Imagine you studied hard, you worked hard, maybe you were at the top of your class, only to suddenly face deportation to a country you know nothing about. ... That’s what gave rise to the DREAM Act.”
The announcement is sure to fuel what has continued to be a fiery debate into this election year—in fact, during his speech, the president stopped twice to reprimand an angry interrupter (who turned out to be Neil Munro from the conservative news website The Daily Caller). But the move is also timely, coming as many young immigrant seniors face high school graduation—and a less certain future.
Photo: President Barack Obama announces that his administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives, during a statement on June 15 in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Susan Walsh/AP)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.