On Friday, June 15, 2012, the Obama administration announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to to individuals who were brought to the United States as children. According to the memorandum, Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children, released by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano,, “these individuals lacked the intent to violate the law,” and “know only this country as home.”
This policy change will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived their young life in the U.S. It furthermore bypasses Congressional opposition and sets out to achieve the goals of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a plan that was developed to help young, illegal immigrants who have attended college or served in the military establish citizenship.
Under the plan, those who were brought to the country by their family at a young age will be immune from deportation if they meet the following criteria:
-If they were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, and are younger than 30
-Have been in the US for at least five continuous years
-Have no criminal history
-Graduated from a U.S. high school, or earned a GED, or
-Served in the military
According to the policy, “the above criteria are to be considered whether or not an individual is already in removal proceedings or subject to a final order of removal.”
Unlike the DREAM Act, this policy change does not head toward citizenship, but removes the threat of deportation and grants work visas, allowing immigrants to remain in the US for an extended period of time, legally.
The plan lays out guidelines for individuals who are already in the phases of deportation, and of those who will come into contact with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). All guidelines provide time for a full background check and list the steps to granting individuals the right to stay in the states in a “clear and efficient process.”
These new protocols are expected, according to Napolitano, to ensure the U.S. enforcement resources are not expended on low priority cases, but appropriately focused on individuals who meet other enforcement priorities – meaning serious criminals, immigrants who pose threats to public and national safety and serious immigration law violators.
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