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.
(Page 4 of 4)
Several of the 29 applicants that were approved by mid-September have spoken to media outlets, including a Mexican man in Tucson, Ariz. He can now get a job in software systems engineering, for which he has a master's degree, instead of working in construction and landscaping.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Such stories, supporters say, will motivate more students to complete high school and pursue higher education.
Programs leading to high school equivalency degrees will probably grow to accommodate people who want to qualify for DACA, says Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute's office at New York University School of Law. The challenge will be "to make sure they are monitored so that they don't become diploma-generating mills," he says.
For Lopez, it's reassuring that her struggles to pay the out-of-state tuition of $750 per class at her college are now more likely to be worth it. "I'm taking a medical interpreter course now, and that's a step I wouldn't have taken if I didn't get this hope of getting a work permit," she says. Currently she's paid a stipend for working with SIM.
Obama's new policy doesn't allow for federal financial aid, nor does it affect tuition policies, which are set by states and individual colleges.
In Maryland, a state DREAM Act is a referendum question on the ballot in November. It would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition if they have attended high school there and their families have paid taxes. Carlson says she doesn't think it's fair for noncitizens to have a tuition advantage over out-of-state citizens. There's a lot of activism on her campus supporting the state DREAM Act, and while the opposition is less visible, she says, "I've met a lot of people who are upset with the bill."
Other states are looking for ways to limit DACA's impact. Nebraska and Arizona have announced they will continue their policy of not providing driver's licenses or other state benefits to illegal immigrants, even those approved under DACA. The states justified their stance by saying that the new program doesn't make approved applicants "legal citizens." But it seems at least in part a challenge to federal law, since the 2005 REAL ID Act lists deferred action recipients as eligible for driver's licenses.
Election worries DACA supporters
One big question on people's minds probably can't be fully answered until November or later. "A lot of people are worried about the pending results of the elections – what that could mean for DACA, since it is a discretionary program," says Mr. Santos, the SIM coordinator.
It wasn't until early October that Mr. Romney articulated his position on DACA. In an interview with The Denver Post he said that young people who have already received DACA approvals would not be deported if he is elected. His campaign then elaborated to The Boston Globe that he would issue no further approvals.
Romney has criticized Obama for setting up something temporary, saying he would work with Congress on a bipartisan, permanent solution before any work permits expire. He's in a tricky spot, politically, as he tries to appeal to the conservative base of his party and at the same time avoid alienating the 23.4 million Hispanics eligible to vote.
If a President Romney indeed takes steps to undo the DACA program, "we're going to do what it takes to get it back," Lopez says. She hopes that "instead of just judging me because I'm undocumented, [people opposed to the DREAM Act are] going to be able to see [I'm] a hard worker ... and maybe they can change their concept."