A New Policy
Immigration legislation has been at a standstill for years, but on Thursday, August 18, 2011, the Obama administration brought some relief for illegal immigrants in the United States. The new policy allows the White House and immigration officials to exercise prosecutorial discretion over deportation proceedings. Those who do not pose a threat to national security or public safety will no longer be on a high priority list for deportation from the U.S. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, will be able to grant relief on a case-by-case basis.
Under the policy, each case will be reviewed individually and is not opened to a whole class of people. However, under new standards, officials can distinguish low-priority cases from high-priority cases, those who are criminals or flagrantly violate immigration laws. This way, law enforcement can focus their efforts on national security and public safety. Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano wrote in a letter to Senator Durbin, The President has said on numerous occasions that it makes no sense to expend our enforcement resources on low priority cases. The Senate majority leader, Reid, noted it will allow federal agents to focus on criminal felons and gang members, rather than college students and veterans who risked their lives for our country. Immigration judges can also adjudicate cases more quickly and proficiently, focusing on convicting felons rather than clogging the court dockets with low-priority cases.
On the other hand, some disagree with the implementation of the new policy by the White House. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Lamar Smith, Republic of Texas denounced the new policy, stating that the Obama administration is again making it clear to grant backdoor amnesty to illegal immigrants. Others believe President Obama is putting illegal immigrants ahead of unemployed Americans by giving immigrants the opportunity to work legally in the U.S.
This new policy, however, has gained President Obama reputation with the Latino community. Major Hispanic organizations had criticized the president of over promising and under delivering on immigration concerns by the Latino voters. The policy also helps the gay community. White House officials say that the new policy can help illegal immigrants with family members in the U.S., which includes lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in the definition of family. Military veterans and spouses of active-duty military personnel will receive relief as well. Overall, the policy will help keep families together, regardless of status, which is important for the U.S. people.
More importantly, the new policy benefits the DREAM Act bill. Thousands of immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age, finished high school, and continued to college will benefit from the decision. It will help stop deportation proceedings against those who qualify under the DREAM Act as long as the individual does not pose a threat to U.S. security. Although a huge step for these young immigrants, Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano states the new policy will not alleviate the need for passage of the DREAM act or for larger reforms to our immigration laws. The policy is geared more towards immigrants in deportation proceedings, but will help keep low-priority cases free from court procedures at this time.
~ Rebecca S. Singh, Esq.