My inboxes and twitter feeds are inundated with so much spin regarding last Friday’s immigration announcement from the Obama administration that it feels like being in the middle of a washing(ton) machine cycle. For those of you in the dark, on Friday the Department of Homeland Security released a memo signed by Secretary Janet Napolitano, which gave very specific guidance to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for how certain young undocumented immigrants, brought into the country under the age of 16, should have prosecutorial discretion exercised in their cases, on a case by case basis.
The specific group of DREAMers this could potentially apply to are:
- those who entered the United States before the age of 16
- those younger than 30
- those who have resided in the US continuously for the five years preceding 6/15/12 and who were in the US on 6/15/12
- those in high school, high school graduates, those with a GED, or those who were honorably discharged as veteran of the Coast Guard or the Armed Forces of the United States
- Those who have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
For those that meet all of the above criteria and are encountered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), discretion should be exercised, again on a case by case basis, to prevent being put into removal proceedings or deportation.
For those that meet the above criteria and are in removal proceedings but aren’t subject to a final removal order, discretion will be exercised, on a case by case basis, and action can be deferred, not canceled, for a two year period which can be renewed.
For those who meet the above criteria and are not in removal and are at least 15 years old, some process which hasn’t been determined, will, again on a case by case basis, prevent an order of removal from being issued for two years, which can be renewed.
For those that meet the above criteria and have a final order of removal, some process will allow the case to be considered for deferral, regardless of age.
For those cases that are deferred U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can decide to give work permits (or not), if you can prove that a work permit is an economic necessity.
There is no guarantee of work permits. There isn’t even a process given for work permit applications. This is not an executive order and this was confirmed by Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, who probably had her most honest moment since becoming part of the Obama administration when she appeared on Univision’s Al Punto with Jorge Ramos yesterday morning. This is not administrative relief. This is not legalization. It is not even a cancelation of pending deportations. At best it is an abeyance, at worse it is another memo on top of the previous memos, like the Morton Memo, which have not been applied (see my previous posts here and here).
And indeed the memo is just vague enough to allow for many to not have their cases deferred. A question that appeared over and over in @vivirlatino’s twitter feed following the announcement was how about the many DREAM activists who have been arrested in civil disobedience actions across the country? Would their arrests and charges on their record make them ineligible? Who are the national security risks that could be denied? Alleged “gang” members?
Also, if you request a deferral and are not in removal, meaning you are not on ICE’s radar, and are subsequently denied, can you then be put into removal proceedings? Are people at risk by asking them to out themselves on a mass basis to those that have the power to deport them? A fact sheet by the American Immigration Lawyers Association suggests yes.
It’s not that I enjoy being cynical and jaded. I wanted to be part of the excitement that was coursing through the immigrant advocacy and activist world like a jolt of electricity. I want to be proven wrong and I invite being proven wrong, but prove me wrong based on facts not backroom deals, sloganeering or approved talking points assuring funding and access to the beltway. I am thinking of the lives of so many people I know, friends and neighbors and the countless lives of people I don’t know. I remember the buzz that surrounded the DREAM Act vote and the overwhelming sadness when it failed. I understand the need for a victory. But I also understand the need for the Obama campaign to get an infusion of Latino support. Judging by the requests for me to send thank you messages to Obama, he may have gotten it. Just not from me. Not yet. Show me the changes in the numbers of cases deferred. Show me the work permits granted. Show me less petitions for young people being deported. Then I will eat my words or others will have to eat theirs.