Immigration policy change could benefit local residents
Staff and Wire Reports June 15, 2012 5:40PM
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:35AM
ELGIN — The Obama administration’s announcement that it will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives was a major policy shift.
But Rosa Sanborn, coordinator of immigration services at Elgin-based Centro de Informacion, said the move “definitely is not amnesty.”
In fact, a young person already must be in removal proceedings, already in the custody of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), to benefit from the plan the administration announced Friday, Sanborn said.
Their deportation then can be deferred, and they can apply for work permits during that time.
“It doesn’t mean just because you are here and you are young, you will apply right away,” she said.
They also must meet a long list of qualifications: They must be under age 30 and brought to the United States before they turned 16, according to the administration plan.
They must have been in the country at least five continuous years. They must have no criminal history. And they must either have graduated from a U.S. high school or earned an equivalent degree or served in the U.S. military, according to the plan.
But, Sanborn said, while she does not have specific numbers, she knows “for a fact” that still will benefit “several young people in the Elgin area.”
And, in her opinion, it does “open a door for young people who have been here for many years and were brought here by their parents and gotten good grades,” she said.
The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration immigration policies and last year’s record number of deportations.
The policy change will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It also bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.
“It is the right thing to do,” President Barack Obama said during a White House announcement. “It makes no sense to expel talented young people who for all intents and purposes are Americans. They have been raised as Americans, understand themselves to be part of this country. ...
“It’s time to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.”
The extraordinary policy move comes in an election year in which the Hispanic vote could be critical in toss-up states such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida that could go either Democratic or Republican.
While Obama enjoys support from a majority of Hispanic voters, Latino enthusiasm for the president has been tempered by the slow economic recovery, his inability to win congressional support for a broad overhaul of immigration laws, and by his administration’s aggressive deportation policy. Activists opposing his deportation policies recently mounted a hunger strike at an Obama campaign office in Denver, and other protests were planned for this weekend.
The policy will not lead toward citizenship but will remove the threat of deportation and grant the ability to work legally, leaving eligible immigrants able to remain in the United States for extended periods. It tracks closely to a proposal offered by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a child of immigrants who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate, as an alternative to the DREAM Act.
“Many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote in a memorandum describing the administration’s action. “Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”