Obama's new program for young illegal immigrants: How is it going?
More than 82,000 young illegal immigrants have applied for a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But the November elections could be key to what happens next.
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"Such a quick turnaround for these amnesty applications raises serious concerns about fraud and a lack of thorough vetting," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas in a statement. "While it took the administration less than three weeks to process several amnesty applications, it can take several months for some legal immigration benefit applications to be approved."Skip to next paragraph
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In response, a DHS official told the Monitor that the average length of time to process a DACA request is expected to be four to six months.
'No, we're not going to give up'
Lopez's transformation from a shy only child to an activist came when the Senate Republicans blocked the DREAM Act in 2010.
"When I saw the faces of the people that were there [to push for the DREAM Act],... people in tears saying, 'No, we're not going to give up,'... that's when I was like, I need to do something. Because if these people are brave enough to stand out and say something, why am I not?" says Lopez, who was taking a break from working at the free legal clinic for DACA applicants in Lynn.
But Mr. Obama's decision to take action that didn't involve Congress irked critics such as Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates tightening borders and limiting immigration. "You have a president saying, 'Since you didn't pass [the DREAM Act], I'm just going to go ahead and do it,' " he says.
He and other opponents worry that it will encourage others to cross into the US – even though DACA applies only to people who arrived at least five years ago.
"If you reward illegal behavior, even if you do so indirectly, through the children of the people who broke the law, you encourage people to do it," Mr. Mehlman says.
Professor Pastor and others point to what happened with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: The employment verification requirements that were supposed to discourage future illegal immigration didn't turn out to be very effective. "Congress said they'd never do that again, because if they did, it would just be an encouragement to larger and larger waves," Pastor says.
Despite Obama's insistence that DACA is not an amnesty, critics see it as exactly that. "Let's not kid ourselves: They're not going to leave," says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, who also objects to the nonlegislative nature of DACA.
If the rationale is that it's for children who grew up here and are essentially "American," it should have tighter guidelines, Mr. Krikorian says – applying to kids brought here at age 7 or younger, for instance. And to avoid attracting new undocumented immigrants, it should have some offsetting policies accompanying it, such as making mandatory the E-Verify system for employers to check employee immigration status, which is currently voluntary unless required by a state.
Giving hope to young immigrants
For immigrant advocates, DACA is indeed seen as a first step – one that's worth pausing to celebrate because it gives hope to many young people who worried about whether their education would lead to anything worthwhile.
"It has been a life-changing moment ... to see the culmination of the organizing work we've done for years now and the risks DREAMers took when they shared their stories," Ms. Praeli says. "We are committed to making sure that ... this victory infuses energy into the undocumented adult population [as well], so that our community can really realize the power they have and continue to fight for broader relief."