Leaders Hail Immigration Policy for Young Undocumented Aliens
Washington, D.C.–President Barack Obama issued an executive order on June 15 which would allow some 800,000 young undocumented aliens in the U.S. to legally get a job and their deportation deferred.
They can now receive permits to work legally in the U.S., but they still cannot have legal residency, the first step to citizenship. Their deportation status will also have to be revisited every two years.
The criteria for the young undocumented to qualify are identical to the ones in the DREAM Act, a bill that has stalled in the U.S. Congress, first introduced in 2001. DREAM is the acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.
Said aliens must be: 1) undocumented individuals brought to the United States by their parents before they turned 16; 2) are younger than 30; 3) have been in the country for at least five continuous years and presently reside here; 4) have no criminal history, and 5) have graduated from a U.S. high school or served in the military.
Obama, who is facing a tough reelection bid on November 6, is seen as making a big gamble to win back the youth vote, as well as the Hispanic American vote. Both played a big role in his election in 2008.
Following the news, euphoric young undocumented aliens were reported rushing to the streets holding “Thank You” signs. The Department of Homeland Security expects to begin the process for applications within 60 days.
Asian American organizations promptly issued statements hailing the executive order, (NCSO) among them.
Excerpts of the NCSO statement follows: “The National Coalition of South Asian Organizations applaud the White House for today’s announcement to offer immigration relief to undocumented students in the form of deferred action. South Asian youth and families stand to benefit from this change in policy, given that individuals from South Asian countries are among the 1 million undocumented students in the United States.
“…DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) expects to begin the process for applications within 60 days. Our organizations will release additional information about the impact of this new policy in the near future, and will work with DHS and the White House to ensure its full and fair implementation.
“It is important to note that deferred action is a temporary form of relief that does not lead to citizenship. Congress must still take action to craft a permanent solution for relief in order to fix the range of problems with our broken immigration system. But, today's announcement from the White House marks an important moment in the struggle for immigration reform in our country. Today, we lift up the tremendous advocacy of the DREAMers and grassroots organizations around the country, whose courage paved the way for this policy change.”
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The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), based in this capital, lauded President Obama for his action, adding, “We agree with the President that ‘it makes no sense to expel talented young persons who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans.’”
NaFFAA also said in its statement released June16Saturday: “We are grateful for the courage of activists like Jose Antonio Vargas, a Filipino journalist, who has taken great risks in calling attention to the plight of these young people. As Vargas puts it, ‘They grew up here, they were educated here, and they have so much to give back to the country they call home.’
NaFFAA “urged Congress to pass the DREAM Act now and end the nightmare of a generation of young people who are Americans and deserve to have the basic rights that all Americans enjoy.”
On the same day, Filipino Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Vargas was the subject of a cover story in Time magazine. The ten-page coverage included his 4,500-word essay, in which he declared that he is an American.
Vargas used to work for the Washington Post, where he won a Pulitzer for his reporting on the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy involving a disturbed mass killer. He has since started a group called Define American.
Vargas is 31. He is thus not qualified to take advantage of President Barack Obama’s executive order. Vargas was elated anyway, calling it “a great victory,” according to New York magazine.
OCA Lauds Policy
OCA Executive Director Tom Hayashi issued a news release, as follows: “OCA, a national organization dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), applauds the Obama Administration for their commitment to providing temporary relief to law abiding undocumented youth by granting them legal status.
“Under the new policy, approximately 800,000 undocumented students in the United States will be qualified for work authorization…
“We are optimistic about the recent announcement to provide much needed relief to Asian Pacific Islanders who are undocumented…many of whom in every way are Americans, to their surprise, they find out that they are not citizens often after graduating from high school…can you imagine what that must be like?
“‘There are plenty of Asian Pacific Islanders who are in the 800,000 cited in the estimate,” says Executive Director, Tom Hayashi. ‘We are very hopeful that this type of immigration reform will put this country on the right path towards a more visionary public policy which is driven by compassion coupled with a permanent practical solution.’
“According to City News Service, Representative Judy Chu, (CA-32) and chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, called the announcement a ‘momentous’ policy change.
“Every year, tens of thousands of students who were raised in this country have their hopes of a higher education, and a brighter future, dashed, simply because of their immigration status,” Chu said. ‘It is unfair that a young person, brought up as an American, in American schools, cannot benefit from the opportunities afforded by a college education because of their parents’ mistakes.”
“While these are the initial steps for true immigration reform, it is a necessary one that is inclusive of having APA voices heard in the debates. Many are tired of hiding in the shadows and are ready to be recognized for their current contributions and future potential. We must give them a chance. Providing life altering opportunities to these students is not only helpful to individuals, but the overall economy in the United States.
“OCA, along with our organizational colleagues, continues to pressure Members of Congress for bi-partisan legislative leadership on a more comprehensive reform around immigration that will also create a pathway to citizenship. Together, we can achieve an immigration policy that is realistic, effective, and fair.”