Blog Archive

Saturday, April 16, 2011

DREAM Act youth call on President Obama to halt deportations (Part 1/4)

Steve Palm-Houser
Unitarian Universalism Examiner

April 15th, 2011

Four young undocumented immigrants spoke on a telephone press conference today to urge President Obama to grant relief from deportation to young people who would have been eligible for the DREAM Act, which was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in December, but failed to pass in the Senate.

The press conference was a response to a letter sent by 22 U.S. Senators to the President on Wednesday, asking him to use his executive authority to give deferred status to undocumented immigrants who were brought by their parents into the United States as young children, have lived in this country for at least five years, and meet other requirements.

The call was moderated by Tyler Moran, Policy Director at the National Immigration Law Center. "DREAM students are Americans at heart. They know no other country as their own. They are our future teachers, doctors, volunteers, military leaders. As the Senators noted, these students have great potential to contribute to our country."

"The Senators in their letter were not proposing a novel legal strategy," said Marshall Fitz, Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. "What they requested was for the administration to exercise the authority that it currently has to provide discretionary relief to individuals.

"It is firmly established that the administration has the authority to make class-based decisions in terms of who they will investigate, and who they will prosecute," Fitz said. "Every law enforcement agency in the world makes decisions about who to prosecute based on discretionary cost-benefit judgments. Sometimes those judgments are made on an individual, case-by-case basis, and sometimes they're made on a class-wide basis. Those determinations are made based on the values, concerns, and priorities of the law enforcement entity."

Fitz cited the example of jaywalking, an infraction which is usually not prosecuted, because of the law enforcement resources it would draw away from pursuing violent felons.

"It's just a prudential decision," Fitz said, citing the example of President Bush granting "deferred enforced departure" status to Liberians in 2007. This discretionary status was extended under President Obama.

This type of discretionary relief does not provide permanent legal status or protections, and it could be revoked at any time, Fitz said. "Only Congress has the power to definitively resolve the status of undocumented people in this country. But providing interim administrative relief of this nature for compelling groups, like the DREAMers, would restore some balance and humanity to the system. It would enable deserving individuals to be more productive members of society, and it would serve as a stop-gap measure until Congress finally gets its act together."

Karen Maldonado, a high school senior from Miami, Florida who is now in deportation proceedings, spoke about how she would benefit from the President’s taking action to protect DREAM students.

"I came to the United States when I was nine years old," Karen said. "On January 25th of this year, I was detained with my dad by immigration, and I was there for weeks. I had to miss school. I would benefit from the DREAM Act because I could finish my education here, and have a better future."

During President Obama's recent town hall in Miami, Maldonado posed a question to the President about his discretionary authority in immigration policy.

Part 1:

Part 2: Maria Marroquin, graduate of Montgomery County Community College, Pennsylvania

Part 3: Rigo Padilla, a senior at the University of Illinois

Part 4: Gaby Pacheco, a resident of Miami, Florida who holds two college degrees