Keeping the Dream Alive — But Not Waking Up Yet

obama-immigration-speech-dream-act

Many undocumented students and workers–called DREAMers– now eagerly await more details about a new immigration policy that could alleviate their perpetual fears of deportation. News of the policy is a victory worth celebrating. But it still does not fulfill their hopes of becoming permanent residents or citizens in the country they call home.

The new initiative, announced by President Obama last month, will permit DREAMers, named for those who would be affected by the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act,  to receive a two-year postponement from deportation proceedings and apply for a work permit. To qualify, individuals must have arrived in the U.S. before turning 16 and be younger than 30. They have to have lived five or more years in the country, and have no criminal convictions, be pursuing a college education or serving in the military. And they must also prove they have “an economic necessity for employment.”

President Barack Obama says that the initiative “is not amnesty.”  He went on to say the policy “is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix.” Yet it is “the right thing to do.”

Not An Empty Gesture

So far, he has been criticized for abusing executive power and bypassing Congress’ authority. The President’s decision is a calculated move, as he seeks to win support from Latino voters and other immigrant groups in the upcoming election. Despite his motives, the new immigration policy stands as a small victory for DREAMers and immigrant advocates. It undoubtedly will change the lives of many young people.

READ MORE: Immigration Reform: A First Step Toward Elevating the Future

The new policy will allow the Administration to use enforcement resources to detain and apprehend illegal immigrants with serious criminal histories, as well as those who pose a threat to national and public safety.  The Administration now considers DREAMers, who haven’t broken any laws, “low priority cases.”

A Chance at a Dream

Work authorization and a deferment of deportation will allow these young immigrants to pursue the American dream. Obama’s initiative will afford DREAMers graduating from college a chance to legally gain employment.  They will have the opportunity to financially support their families and contribute tax dollars to the economy. Anyone can relate to this dream. But they will have to wait and see how the policy gets implemented.

So far, this stands as a temporary measure. DREAMers will have to re-apply for a stay of deportation every two years, as well as renew their work permit.

They will have to keep their dream alive of someday seeing the passage of the DREAM Act. This bill, co-authored by Republicans and Democrats, has yet to get enough votes in the Senate to become law. It would facilitate the granting of  citizenship to the children of immigrants brought to the country by their parents.

With this bill stalled in Congress, those young immigrants are far from having the stability and legitimacy they desire and deserve. Though they now have less to worry about, their undocumented family members, still facing the specter of deportation, are not so lucky. – Ezra Christopher

Ezra Christopher is a former New York Life graduate fellow. Read more about her and our other writers

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