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Obama's 'DREAM Act': How it will work is still a work in progress

The official responsible for carrying out Obama's 'DREAM Act' answered questions Tuesday on the illegal immigrants program, but said final details will be known only on Aug. 15, when the first applications are accepted.

By Staff Writer / August 7, 2012

Undocumented UCLA students attend a graduation ceremony for 'dreamers' – illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children – at a church near the campus in Los Angeles. An Obama administration rule change on Friday would spare some dreamers from deportation.

Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

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Washington

Ever since President Obama announced in June that he was halting deportations of otherwise law-abiding young immigrants brought to the US illegally, the immigrants (and restive members of Congress) have been eager to learn how the program would work.

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They are about to find out, but only on Aug. 15, the day US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting immigrants’ applications for a special status deferring immigration action against them for two years, says USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, the man largely responsible for carrying out Mr. Obama’s policy.

Mr. Mayorkas, appearing Tuesday at a seminar held by the nonpartisan Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, had answers for a number of questions raised by immigrant advocates and members of Congress alike about how, specifically, the government would carry out Obama’s order that, in addition to staving off deportation, would allow eligible individuals to apply for work permits.

But on the most granular specifics, Mayorkas stressed repeatedly that the agency would work hard to evaluate every applicant on an individual basis and that final details would only be available the day that USCIS begins accepting applications.
 
“We will make our determinations on an individualized, case-by-case basis” beginning Aug. 15, Mayorkas said. “And not before then.”
 
Nearly 1.3 million illegal immigrants under the age of 31 would be immediately eligible for the policy, according to an estimate released Tuesday by the Migration Policy Institute. Some 500,000 more could become eligible in coming years as they reach the age of 15, the minimum age for the designation.
 
The final details are of keen interest to two distinct groups. First, illegal immigrants with military service or who are pursuing or already obtained a high school education are weighing whether to step out of the shadows and into the program. These young people are frequently referred to as DREAM-ers, after long-stalled federal legislation known as the DREAM Act that would effectively cement the Obama administration’s move into federal immigration law.
 
At present, the Obama administration justified its move by arguing that it is using “prosecutorial discretion” to focus on illegal immigrants who are a danger to public safety or national security given limited immigration enforcement resources.  
 
Key to these groups was Mayorkas’s announcement that application for the program will cost $465, that individuals who are denied by the program cannot file a motion to reopen or reconsider their application, but those rejected from the program would not necessarily be referred to Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), the arm of immigration policy responsible for deportations.
 
USCIS, in addition, would allow some flexibility in how applicants must document their eligibility for the program.

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