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.
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Applicants will have to prove that they entered the US before the age of 16; that they’ve been in the US continuously since June 2007; were present in the US on June 15 of this year; have met certain academic or military qualifications; have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors; and otherwise do not pose a threat to public safety or national security.Skip to next paragraph
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While saying the most specific requirements for documents that USCIS will accept will be available on Aug. 15, Mayorkas listed a litany of specific items from high school diplomas to military documents to healthcare records that would be acceptable in meeting some part of the eligibility requirements. In building the list, he said, “we took into consideration the documentary realities that undoubtedly the young people requesting deferred action would confront.”
But that flexibility is a warning siren for the second group of individuals who are deeply interested in USCIS’s guidelines: critics of the program, like House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R) of Texas, who see the administration’s decision as opening the floodgates to immigration fraud.
“The lack of specific standards for employees processing the applications is an open invitation to fraud,” Representative Smith said in an e-mailed statement in response to updated guidance provided by USCIS on Friday, “especially because the Administration is allowing illegal immigrants to submit third party affidavits as proof of at least one of the DREAM Act requirements.”
During a half-hour long speech on the subject, Mayorkas provided answers to many of the some three dozen questions raised by Smith in June in a letter to USCIS and other government immigration institutions.
• Driving under the influence counts as a “serious misdemeanor,” preventing a person from qualifying for the program.
• Affidavits will be allowed to help bridge small gaps in an applicant’s documentary record, but not stand on their own as proof for eligibility.
• The organization would use the $465 fund to pay for the additional staff needed to run the process so that other cases from legal immigrants would not be shortchanged.
The USCIS director also pushed back one critique of the policy by saying that no individuals would be processed by the policy before Aug. 15 – a claim Smith leveled in a separate, July letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as proof the Obama administration was rushing ahead with the policy without putting proper safeguards in place.
Concern about the integrity of an immigrant’s documents “is a legitimate point,” says David Martin, a law professor at the University of Virginia and former principal deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security, who spoke on a panel alongside Mayorkas.
“There’s indication in the guidance of real seriousness about documentary integrity,” he said, “but the devil’s in the details. We’ll see that in a week.”