President Obama has issued an executive order which will temporarily halt the deportation of young undocumented immigrants. Under this policy, exemption will apply to undocumented immigrants who are high school graduates, returning war veterans and law-abiding members of society. Eligibility requirements are restricted to current U.S. residents of five years who are under the age of 30 and immigrated before the age of 16. The Department of Homeland Security will allow two years of “deferred action,” which exempts undocumented workers from deportation and provides an opening to obtain legal work permits. The Obama administration states that an estimated 800,000 people will be spared from the threat of deportation and given the opportunity to work under the act.
The Highlander Editorial Board supports President Obama’s initiative for providing temporary relief to undocumented students who wish to pursue employment and education in the land of opportunities. At the same time, we also share the belief that if Obama is willing to enforce a provisional policy towards such a broad and controversial issue, then a much-needed overhaul in immigration reform needs to be pursued. It is pertinent to expand beyond that of a simple political move in creating promised change, which initially landed Obama in the presidential arena.
Support for new immigration policies revived backers of the Development, Relief, Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which has failed to gain enough Congressional support since its reintroduction in 2009. The DREAM Act would have allowed undocumented U.S. residents to apply for temporary or permanent residency depending upon higher education or military experience.
In a Bloomberg National Poll published June 19, two-thirds of likely voters expressed support for Obama’s immigration policy. Obama has also gained overwhelming support from Latino voters, who made up 9 percent of his votes in the 2008 presidential election.
By taking a position on one of many controversial issues, Obama has sidestepped a polarized Congress in order to inch toward much-needed reform. Despite the obvious political motives with his reelection campaign in full-gear, Obama deserves credit for introducing his political stance and bringing the important issue of immigration back to the forefront of policy discussions.
Eligibility requirements for Obama’s policy still present possible loopholes due to overly specific criterion. For undocumented immigrants who choose to disclose their position by obtaining a work permit, they may be risking deportation after two years if Obama is unable to enact more legal protections. Obama’s preliminary efforts toward immigration reform are applaud-worthy, yet the need for further reform is a must if he’s to adequately fulfill his electoral promises, especially for the sake of undocumented students who risk deportation.
Obama has weaved a rug of political freedom, which threatens to be pulled out from under millions of undocumented U.S. immigrants if proper legislation isn’t made. Obama has the responsibility to show that freedom is not just a temporary possibility, but a permanent reality. To be accepted in a land which offers freedom and opportunity, only to be convicted, prosecuted, and deported in the face of a tattered reform policy will surely reflect poorly on the United States. Obama’s executive order is a step in the right direction towards envisionary immigration reform, but a more comprehensive legislative package is necessary to provide a definite solution.