Robyn Gee on Friday, Aug. 19th
President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that low-priority immigration offenders would not be a focus for deportation, according to the Los Angeles Times. This applies to DREAM Act-eligible students and people who have family ties in the country.
The statement comes at a critical moment for President Obama, as Republican candidates begin competing with him for the Latino vote in November. When President Obama spoke at the National Council de la Raza last month, he was criticized for his administration’s slow progress on immigration reform.
He also supported the recent Secure Communities legislation, which has been seen with skepticism by pro-immigrant advocates. The law allows local and state police to hand over fingerprints and citizenship information for people they arrest to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The law has been criticized for scaling up the deportations of people who committed minor offenses. States are also unclear about whether turning over fingerprints is voluntary or mandatory. The Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law are currently involved in a lawsuit against this legislation.
President Obama’s recent announcement means that many cases up for deportation will be examined in a new light — to decide whether they are “low-priority.” If the person is granted low-priority status, they might even be eligible for work permits, the LA Times reports.
Assemblyman Gil Cedillo of California, who worked to push through the California DREAM Act legislation AB 130, said that he hopes the President will do more. “We appreciate it — that he’s not going to target young men and women who have become part of the best and brightest of CA — we’re pleased he’s not going to target them. We would obviously like him to enhance that commitment,” he said.
Cedillo said it’s typical to see families broken apart by deportation. “A brother and sister came into my office. The freshman brother was born here, a citizen, but his sister couldn’t get a scholarship. Why would you want to separate this family?”
In terms of next steps, Cedillo thinks this statement might help Obama win the Latino vote, but the question remains whether it will be executed. “What can we do now? Through the execution of policy we can protect the DREAM students, stop dividing families, and we can protect American families. … To the extent that the new statement moves us in that direction, it is welcomed,” he said.