President Obama’s controversial immigration policy aimed at providing relief to thousands of young, illegal immigrants enters a new phase today. Here’s a brief look at what it is, and what it isn’t:
1. This is not the DREAM Act.
While President Obama’s executive action on June 15 bears some resemblance to the DREAM Act, it is not the same and shouldn’t be described as such. This is not a legislative or permanent fix. And it does not provide a path to citizenship, the right to vote, or even permanent legal residency for illegal immigrants.
2. This is wide-scale “deferred action.”
What does that mean? President Obama ordered the Department of Homeland Security to review and approve — on a case-by-case basis – temporary reprieves for young illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria and want to work and remain in the country.
This type of administrative discretion has existed for a long time, but Obama has directed it to be more widely used.
If approved, an immigrant’s illegal status/removal is simply “deferred” for two years when the application is up for renewal. There are no guarantees of approval. There is no firm timetable for when applicants will receive word.
3. A truly temporary measure.
Under a different administration — i.e. a President Romney — this could all easily change given that this is simply a matter of administrative discretion. There is significant angst among immigrants applying for deferred action that their new-found status could go away quickly under a different president, leaving the Department of Homeland Security with their vital information on file.
4. No illegal immigrants will receive “deferred action” today.
Today marks the beginning of the application process through which illegal immigrants can apply for temporary legal status and work permits. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants will not receive legal status or work permits today.
5. Who and how many are eligible?
Here are the eligibility requirements, which must be documented to DHS:
- Came to the U.S. before age 16.
- Lived continuously in the U.S. for 5 years and in the U.S. now.
- Must be younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012.
- Must be in school, graduated from high school/GED, or served in military.
- No criminal record (felony or significant misdemeanor or 3+ misdemeanors).
- Pose no threat to national security or public safety.
- Pass background check.
- Pay $465 fee.
The Pew Research Center estimates up to 1.7 million illegal immigrants may apply. It is unclear how many will be approved.