David Bennion: June 2012 Archives
[Undocumented activists occupy Obama campaign office in Oakland, CA / Image: Krsna Avila]
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today issued instructions to federal immigration agencies not to deport undocumented youth who meet certain criteria. The criteria are based on the provisions of the proposed DREAM Act. President Obama announced the policy change at the White House soon afterward.
The new policy, if implemented, would provide temporary relief to many undocumented youth in the United States. Undocumented organizers who fought for their rights and their communities deserve the credit for today's policy change.
But I worry that this announcement, like those before it, is intended to improve poll numbers more than to benefit undocumented families. I am skeptical because DHS is institutionally oriented towards deporting people and because this administration has made deportations its number one immigration policy priority. Serious questions about the new policy remain unanswered.
Update 6/22/12: Click through for a Spanish translation of this post.
Here are some pros and cons of the new policy guidance:
Responding to ICE's release of data on prosecutorial discretion as of May 29, 2012, American Immigration Lawyers Association president Eleanor Pelta categorically stated ""The prosecutorial discretion initiative has failed."
Only 1.5% of cases in deportation proceedings under review have been closed so far (4,403 of 288,361). And "closed" is not entirely accurate, any case administratively closed"under the prosecutorial discretion review is technically still pending and can be reopened by ICE at any time for any reason. Of the cases administratively closed, Pelta said, "even those were granted only a temporary reprieve, keeping their lives completely in limbo. That's a very low rate-far less than the percentage that succeed in obtaining relief in court."