Undocumented Immigrants Say ‘Sign Me Up’ for Deportation Deferral

DREAMer reaction to day one of Obama’s new deportation deferral program surpasses expectations. As does political push back.
People in Los Angeles fill out paperwork hoping for deportation deferrals under the rules announced by the Obama administration in June. (Jonathan Alcorn / Reuters)
Aug 15, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

Congress may not have passed the Dream Act, but the dream has begun for tens of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who “waited excitedly in lines as long as a mile and thronged to information sessions across the country on Wednesday, the first day that a federal immigration agency began accepting applications for deportation deferrals that include permits to work legally,” reports The New York Times.

“The public outpouring surprised both federal officials and immigrant advocates, who had expected an enthusiastic response to the Obama administration’s deferral program but were unprepared for the size and intensity of it.”

“At Navy Pier here [in Chicago], young people began lining up on Tuesday evening for a counseling session about the program that was organized by an immigrants’ rights group . . . By noon, event organizers said, 11,500 people had attended briefings.”

MORE: DREAM Fulfilled? Undocumented College Student Speaks Out

But there were tears mixed in with the joy. The Washington Post noted that, “some have learned as the details became clear, [that the program] is a narrowly tailored one. Fewer than 2 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country are eligible for the program.”

“It was devastating to hear I didn’t qualify,” said a sobbing Elsi Hernandez, 25, [who] came to the United States when she was 17 and graduated from high school in 2008. She only learned while gathering documents to apply that she was too old when she arrived from El Salvador to be eligible. “I just want to study and be a good example to my daughters.”

The program “is open to immigrants ages 15 to 31 who arrived before they were 16 and have lived here continuously for the past five years or more. Among other restrictions, they must be free of serious criminal convictions and be in school or have a high school diploma or equivalent.”

These guidelines are similar to those of the unrealized Dream Act, which Dream Activist explains “is a piece of federal legislation which would legalize the status of several million undocumented youth. The DREAM Act stands for the Development Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act.”

As a reminder, President Obama initiated the deportation deferral program using his executive authority after the Dream Act legislation—which he supported—stalled in Congress once again.

Many Republican lawmakers were not happy with the Obama’s decision. The Miami Herald quotes Rep. Steve King of Iowa as saying, "Americans should be outraged that President Obama is planning to usurp the constitutional authority of the United States Congress and grant amnesty by edict to 1 million illegal aliens."

Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer responded to the deportation deferral program by issuing an executive order that directs state agencies to block benefits and deny IDs and drivers licenses to any undocumented immigrants who are applying for what Brewer called "the Obama amnesty plan."

Back in Florida, the Miami Herald also quotes 17-year-old Marina Bautista who was brought to the U.S when she was 11 months old and has lived here her entire life. "We can now do things legally without having to worry about police thinking we're here to cause chaos."

“She hopes to go to college to study photography or cosmetology.” Yep, that Marina sounds like a real alien troublemaker if there ever was one.

Do you support President Obama’s deportation deferral program or do you think passing this legislation, or the DREAM Act, should have been left up to Congress?

Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com

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