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Obama's order eases deportation fears, offers no U.S. citizenship

Regardless of whether it was done an election-year tactic to gain the Hispanic vote or a genuine policy priority, the Obama administration's recent decision to temporarily halt deportation for many young immigrants was generally met with approval among immigration advocates.

As you may know, the President announced last Friday that he has ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to refrain from deporting undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and meet certain other criteria. He also announced a plan to offer them limited work permits.

The change will ease the immediate deportation fears of as many as 800,000 young people, but it is not a permanent or comprehensive fix -- even for those affected. The new policy does not offer amnesty, immunity from deportation, or a path to U.S. citizenship -- an executive order does not have the power to do so. Yet, while even the President admits that his actions don't fix to the country's many immigration problems, he has come to believe that refusing to deport these innocent people is "the right thing to do."

The announcement, in part, achieves some of the intentions of the DREAM Act, which would, among other things, offer some, young undocumented immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship through attending college or serving in the military. The President's executive order cannot do that, but it offers most young people relief from deportation fears for at least two years. Under the order, undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria will not be deported merely for their presence in the United States. Those criteria include:

  • Having been brought to the U.S. before the age of 16
  • Having lived in the U.S. for five consecutive years
  • Having no criminal history
  • Having graduated from a U.S high school, received a GED or served in the U.S. military
  • Being currently under the age of 30

Those meeting these criteria are also allowed apply for a temporary work permit, valid for two years without limit, which may be renewable. However, many undocumented immigrants may justifiably fear that applying for these permits could expose their status to the authorities. Consulting with an experienced immigration law attorney is the best way to weigh for yourself the pros and cons of this program.

Remember, meeting with an immigration attorney is always completely confidential. Your attorney can never report your status to the government or anyone else.

Source: Clarion Ledger, "Obama: No deporting kids," June 15, 2012

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