Obama Scores Political Points with Suspension of Deportation of Immigrants Brought to U.S. as Children
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Facing political pressure from both left and right, President Barack Obama announced last week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will no longer deport persons simply because they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Specifically, immigrants under 30 years of age currently in the U.S. who can prove that they came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16 and have lived in the country continuously for at least five years are eligible for a two-year deferment of deportation and the right to work. If they are not now in school, they must be high school graduates, G.E.D. certificate holders, or honorably discharged veterans of the military or Coast Guard, and must never have been convicted of a felony, a serious misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanors or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The policy Obama is now following is not a new idea. Immigration reform legislation called the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001, by Dick Durbin (D–Illinois) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would do much the same thing on a permanent basis. Despite initial bipartisan support, the DREAM Act itself died. It was supported by a majority of House and Senate members late in 2010, and again in 2011, but was killed by Republican filibusters both times. Although President Obama insisted for two years that he lacked the power to unilaterally enact the policies the DREAM Act, that is what he did.
Obama was under growing political pressure from Hispanics, whose votes he needs in November. Young Hispanic activists recently initiated a national campaign of sit-ins at Obama campaign offices around the country, occupying sites in Los Angeles, Denver, Oakland, and cities in Ohio and Michigan. They were demanding that Obama stop deporting immigrants who would be eligible under the DREAM Act, of whom they are an estimated 800,000 in the U.S.
It appears that Obama is already reaping a bumper crop of political support. A Bloomberg poll showed that likely voters favored Obama’s decision by a margin of 64% to 30%, while a poll of Hispanic voters in five battleground states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia) found that 49% of Latino voters are now more enthusiastic about Obama, compared with 14 percent who said they were less enthusiastic. Meanwhile, Obama’s Republican rival, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has refused to say where he stands on the issue.
Obama’s decision was also greeted with enthusiasm by another important swing state constituency: dairy farmers. The Dairy Farmers of America issued a statement that “Dairy farmers across the country are in need of a reliable, stable and legal workforce. A 2009 study conducted by National Milk Producers Federation found that more than 40 percent of workers on U.S. dairy farms are born outside this country. Unlike most others in the agricultural sector, dairy producers do not have access to the H-2A guest worker program as the industry is not seasonal.”
To Learn More:
Secretary Napolitano Announces Deferred Action Process for Young People Who Are Low Enforcement Priorities (Department of Homeland Security)
Despite Nod to Dreamers, Latinos Still Stuck Between a Deportation and a Nativist (by Chris Zepeda-Millan, Huffington Post)
Obama to Permit Young Migrants to Remain in U.S. (by Julia Preston and John H. Cushman, Jr., New York Times)
U.S. Will Stop Deporting Some Illegal Immigrants who Came Here as Children (by Peter Wallsten, Washington Post)
Obama Immigration Policy Favored 2-to-1 by Likely Voters (by Lisa Lerer, Bloomberg)
Mitt Romney Is Terrified Of Talking About Immigration (by Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider)
Senate Democrats Re-Introduce DREAM Act (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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