A young Latina was in tears after the announcement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stating that certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings.
“I was not expecting this, but God is wonderful because my brother just graduated with honors from college. He is an engineer,” she said in an anonymous condition. “I’m not eligible because I came into the country at 16 and one month.”
Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.
“Several members of my family qualify under these criteria. OMG, I’m flipping… Can’t believe if it’s true,” she said.
“This is a HUGE milestone for DREAMers, who have been fighting for years for the chance to lead successful and prosperous lives here in America,” said Adam Luna from America’s Voice.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) applauded the announcement that comes after years of sustained advocacy by Senators Durbin, Reid, Menendez, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Dream Act students and advocacy groups. “For all the young people who call this country their home but have been unable to fulfill their dreams, I am profoundly grateful to the President and the Administration for suspending the deportation of Dreamers,” said Menendez. “For these young men and women who want to become doctors, teachers, police officers and soldiers, this announcement will change their lives forever.”
Community, student, labor, and political leaders will gather at 2pm in an impromptu rally in Lafayette Plaza, across from the White House, to celebrate President Obama’s announcement. The president is set to speak at 1:15 pm EST.
“The President has heard the cry for relief from every state in the country, parents and principals, nuns and union activists, and most importantly from DREAMers themselves,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland. “President Obama has heard the need for change and he has acted.”
“The DREAM Act started over 10 years ago as a bipartisan common sense bill. Over the years, Republicans who supported it in the past, including original co-sponsor Orrin Hatch (R-UT), have become opponents as the Republican Party has lurched to the right. And despite efforts by some in the GOP, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), to reposition the GOP on the issue, House Republicans have made it clear that any version of DREAM would not pass the House this year,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund. “As a result of today’s decision, hundreds of thousands of young people who are American in all but paperwork will have the opportunity to live freely, work legally, and contribute to the country they love. The President is right to step up and protect these young people, because this expansion of existing policy is the only viable path to meaningful relief for Dreamers this year,” he added.
U.S. senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said he was thrilled at the changes to immigration policy and called this announcement a “historic moment in American history.”
“This morning’s Breaking News has been the best news I have received in years. Finally, the hard work of all Dreamers has paid off, but this is only the beginning, this is only the first step.
I recently graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and finally doors are opening up for me. Tonight, Dreamers are united again and will be celebrating the amazing news; however, tomorrow is time for us to go out and show the United States and the world that this was NOT a mistake. We are going to finish school (in my case my Masters Degree), get a job, become professionals, and help our home and beloved country, the United States succeed,” said Lizardo Buleje, a young Latino who went on a hunger strike to demonstrate for the DREAM Act a couple of years ago.
This is the down payment on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
DREAMers were celebrating the decision across the country, a resolution they courageously pushed, coming out of the shadows to do it and sacrificing their own safety. And even though they celebrate the direct benefit of this announcement, they continued to call on President Obama for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
“We have battled for reform and we have won,” said Yves Gomes, a DREAM activist and CASA member. “I definitely feel like this shows that our country is headed in the right direction,” he said.
Also overjoyed was Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who has done everything in his power, including getting arrested, to move the issue of Comprehensive Immigration reform forward.
“For a year and a half after the DREAM Act was filibustered, I have been standing with others and saying to the President ‘yes you can’ prevent the deportation of DREAMers and now he and the Secretary clearly agree and are taking proper action. [...] DREAMers who came here at a young age have grown up believing that our country would eventually embrace them as much as they have embraced this country and now that is coming true, at least on a provisional basis. No group of young immigrants has fought harder or more bravely for their place in our country than the DREAMers and we have all taken a lesson from their tenacity and leadership,” Gutierrez said. “But this is a time to celebrate. The DREAMers are not the sum total of the immigration issue and even with today’s announcement, the DREAM Act legislation is still needed to give people permanent relief beyond the two-year reprieve. And many other immigrants with no criminal history and deep roots here deserve the same consideration and we will keep fighting for them,” the representative added.
José Antonio Vargas, founder of Define American who graced the cover of TIME magazine this month, does not qualify because he is already 30; but said that while the solution may not be perfect, today’s announcement marks tremendous progress that couldn’t have happened without the passion and dedication of hundreds of thousands of people, raising their voices together.
“Every social movement in the world is led by young people, and DREAMers are the beating heart of this growing immigrant rights movement. Like generations of immigrants before them, they have insisted on a better life not just for themselves and their families but for the country they love. This is a victory for DREAMers and the members of their underground railroad–educators and faith leaders, friends and neighbors–who have aided and supported them,” Vargas said.
DHS to implement process in sixty days
Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:
- Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
- Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
- Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
- Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
- Are not above the age of thirty.
Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.
While this guidance takes effect immediately, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty days. In the meantime, individuals seeking more information on the new policy should visit USCIS’s website (at www.uscis.gov), ICE’s website (atwww.ice.gov), or DHS’s website (at www.dhs.gov). Beginning Monday, individuals can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours with questions or to request more information on the forthcoming process.
For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of ICE’s ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.