President Obama speaking in the Rose Garden
Should children pay for the "sins" of their parents?
A vigorous debate is presently raging throughout the nation about President Obama's announcement that his administration would not arbitrarily deport those undocumented young immigrants whose parents came to this country illegally and brought their children.
Immigration rights advocates have praised the President's pronouncements while others (some immigrants included) have denounced his actions as merely a political ploy in an election year. By signing the executive order, it potentially affected about 800,000 people, whose pending deportations will be deferred since, according to news reports, the order takes effect immediately.
The executive order is an expedited version of the Dream Act, a bill that had passed in the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate in 2010. The order is focused on young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country by their parents, who entered the country illegally, and as a result, the children became illegal immigrants, an extension of their parents' actions.
At the news conference in the Rose Garden explaining the substance of the executive the order, and why he did it, instead of waiting for the Congress "to fix our broken immigration system," the President also described the step as a "temporary measure" and urged Congress to pass a more permanent solution - a reference to the Dream Act, which has been languishing in Congress and to which President Obama stated that I have said time and time and time again to Congress, " ... send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away."
He then went on to say, "Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people. Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization."
Furthermore, President Obama made it perfectly clear that this is not amnesty. "This is not immunity," he said. "This is not a path to citizenship, nor is it a permanent fix. It's is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely, while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is the right thing to do."
In explaining the policy change, the President said that the policy change will apply to the undocumented immigrants, along the same lines as the Dream Act. And during that speech he also explained, "These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents - sometimes even as infants - and often have no idea that they're undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver's license, or a college scholarship.
"Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you've done everything right your entire life - studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class - only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak. That's what gave rise to the DREAM Act. It says that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you've been here for five years, and you're willing to go to college or serve in our military, you can one day earn your citizenship."
After the President's speech, there was an array of support for his actions coming from all over the country. These are some of the statements of support:
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-33):
"As President Obama stated during today's announcement of the new Homeland Security directive, this 'makes sense'. I applaud the President and Secretary Napolitano for their exceptional leadership and action to allow youth who are eligible for the DREAM Act to continue to call America home.
"This provision is a symbol of what America is all about and provides security for young people who have been raised and educated here the opportunity to officially grow roots in their communities and provide them with an outlet to fuel their desire to build a stronger nation together."
Councilwoman Jan Perry:
"For far too long our outdated immigration laws have divided families and punished
young people by ripping them away from the country, family, and community that they
have grown up with and loved. Today's announcement is an incredible step in the right
direction and I applaud our President for moving us forward on immigration reform."
Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP:
"President Obama is taking an affirmative step toward addressing our nation's immigration concerns while protecting our supply of intellectual capital. This decision ensures that America retains a future generation of well-educated workers and thinkers who can offer diverse perspectives on the challenges of the twenty-first century.
"The NAACP has strongly supported the "Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act", or DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would allow thousands of young immigrants to become permanent citizens if they demonstrated good moral character and met other educational or military requirements."
Secretary of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano: "Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner. But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here."
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: "By ending the deportation of certain young immigrants and making them eligible to work in this country, President Obama has taken a bold step in the direction of a more humane and more sensible immigration policy. His action today upholds some of America's most cherished values: our belief in opportunity and fairness and our tradition of openness and inclusion. Crucially with his decision, the President has also protected young immigrants, many of whom have been here since they were infants and have spent their whole lives in this country. Instead of fearing deportation, instead of facing the prospect of being separated from their loved ones, hundreds of thousands of young people can now do what generations of their predecessors have done. They can contribute their energy and enthusiasm and their dreams and determination to their new home and help drive the future prosperity and growth of the United States."
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA):
"I applaud President Obama for helping these talented young people continue to contribute to the country they call home. It was the right thing to do, and now Congress must take the next step by passing comprehensive reforms that will fix our nation's broken immigration system."
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:
"Today's announcement will help ensure that thousands of talented and productive young people will more fully contribute to our nation," "It is fitting that this announcement comes on the 30th anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, where the Supreme Court held that a child may not be denied equal access to public education based on his or her immigration status. This Administration is committed to upholding the promise of Plyler, and will continue working vigorously to assure that the American educational system remains open to all young people who reside in this country."
CA Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez :
"Today's announcement by the President comes as welcome news to hundreds of thousands of men and women who came to this country as children, who have served in the military, attended our schools, and who have lived their lives as hardworking Americans. This was the right decision, and I applaud the President for his leadership."
AFT President Randi Weingarten: "All children deserve access to a quality public education and a fair shot at realizing their dreams. President Obama has given hope to young people who have demonstrated good citizenship by pursuing college or protecting our nation. The nearly 1 million youths affected by this decision have done everything our society has asked them to do. They have worked hard, studied hard, and are pursuing college educations. These young immigrants are our students, and they deserve a chance to become productive members of our society without living with constant fear and uncertainty.
"It is certainly appropriate that the president's action comes on the 30th anniversary of the historic Plyler v. Doe decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was against the law to deny children access to public education, regardless of their citizenship or that of their parents."