to halt deportation of certain undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 Eric LaMont Gregory
finally, a fundamental difference between Romney and Obama
The Obama administration, in a major policy development has instructed the Department of Homeland Security to issue a 'deferred action' policy directive that puts a halt to the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants between the ages 15 and 30.
Under the Homeland Security Directive, so-called 'Dream Act' eligible undocumented immigrants, will be immune from deportation. The directive applies specifically to those brought to the United States before the age of 16 and have been in the US for at least five years. Those eligible under the directive cannot have a criminal record and must have already graduated or will graduate from a US high school or hold an equivalent certificate.
One of the least controversial aspects of the new executive department directive is that it applies to those undocumented immigrants that have served honorably in the US military, and that part of the new directive has the full support of our military establishment.
The directive will allow those who come under the plan to apply for work permits that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times the work permit can be renewed, but it must be renewed every two years for the permit holder to remain eligible.
This move ups the political stakes for both presidential contenders. For both candidates it is a reminder that many communities across this nation have had heart-wrenching cases of 'dream' students whose lives have been ripped apart. Reading the local headlines one imagines the battle over this issue to be of Biblical proportions, and has many Americans asking just how long we intend to continue to punish children for the sins of their fathers, or does our belief system tell us to suffer children.
For Romney the issue is a difficult one to reconcile with his stated positions on immigration. For example, will he add the new executive agency directive to his list of things he will reverse in his first 100 days if he moves into the White House next year?
Many Americans see this as an 'amnesty' although the directive does not grant citizenship or any other permanent legal status. It is in final analysis a small step towards a solution to a problem Congress has lacked the courage to resolve, that is, undocumented immigrants who are here through no fault of their own.
Republicans in the Senate blocked the Dream Act in 2010, after it garnered a favorable vote in the House. And, obviously not anticipating the adminstration's recent announcement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith a Texas republican, stated recently that his committee would not hold hearings on the Dream Act this year.
The Homeland Security directive provides a strong contrast between our presidential rivals. Although Romney accuses him of lax immigration enforcement, Obama has in reality sanctioned a record number of deportations during his administration.
Romney, whose position on immigration is clearly to the right of his GOP primary rivals, will have to find a way to move more to the center on immigration matters if he is not to alienate much of the Latino vote in this country. Unless, he has crafted a strategy that will allow him to win without the Latino vote.
Romney could adopt a position in line with the legislation proposed by Marco Rubio (R-Florida), at one time a potential Romney running mate. Such an approach might help cast him as firm but even handede in immigration matters. However, it should be remembered that Rubio's proposal would grant legal status to those eligible, whereas the new DHS 'deferred action' policy directive does not grant any legal status whatsoever.
If Romney wins, and he sticks to his stated position on immigration, those in the Latino community as well as many other Americans who today praise our generosity will again have to live in fear of exile from the only place they have ever known as home.
Time and the November ballot will tell whether this directive will prove to be a defining moment in the 2012 march to the White House, but for now the impact of this decision has on those eligible and the relief it has brought to their families simply cannot be overestimated.