How DREAMers Made the Deferred-Action Program a Reality


On the day the deferred-action announcement finally came, on June 15 of this year, the team blocked the street in front of the USCIS office in Los Angeles. During that action, Napolitano issued a memorandum announcing that some undocumented youth would be able to apply for temporary deportation relief.

Elated, the team made its way to the Labor Center at the University of California, Los Angeles to watch Obama deliver a speech on the program from the White House Rose Garden.

"One thing we really paid attention to when he gave that speech," said Dominguez, "was how he chose not to excuse it or argue for it because of economics or something. His reasoning was, 'It's the right thing to do.' Even though, of course, we feel like there is so much more to be done, we listened to that, and that was interesting that that was his public line."

According to USCIS, the agency received nearly 180,000 applications for deferred action between the program's start date on August 15 and October 10. About 4,600 have been approved. United We Dream said during a recent conference call it hosted that the organization was able to offer upwards of 8,000 DREAMers information and help with the application through dozens of clinics and webinars.

Mariaelena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said during the call that she's been working closely with USCIS and believes "this is a model of government at its best."

Hincapie praised the agency for being transparent and efficient, but cautioned that the program only offers "a reprieve from deportation."

Professor David Koelsch, an associate law professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, and director of the Immigration Law Clinic there, agrees.

Koelsch, who has helped about 300 people apply, says the immigration debate needs a dose of realism.

"To me, it seems like people's expectations on the high end and the low end are both out of whack," he said regarding what Romney's approach to immigration reform might be if he is elected president.

"And more people got deported under President Obama than under the previous three [presidents]," Koelsch added.

He also pointed out that Congress does "control the purse strings" and said he thinks it's likely the House will remain Republican, meaning even if Obama is reelected, "no matter what he wants to do, there's still a limit to what he can do."

Where Do We Go From Here?

Immigration reform has not been a major topic on the campaign trail. Although it is not something either candidate will be able to avoid long term.

Deeply immersed in a neck-and-neck race for the White House and struggling to appeal to the conservative voters who make up his party's loyal base, Romney has relied on advice from immigration hardliners such as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Kobach authored Arizona's controversial immigration bill, and he's backed everything from a fence along the nation's southern border to the E-Verify system, which allows employers to check whether their employees are eligible to work in the country.

And while strict immigration rhetoric appealed to voters in the campaign primary, it hasn't played as well in the general election and it's unlikely to appeal to the general public if Romney is elected in November.

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