Obama’s announcement takes weight off of undocumented shoulders

Courtesy SWER.org

Melhor Leonor/News Director
Barbara Corbellini Duarte/Asst. News Director

Almost two years after the Congressional shut down of the DREAM Act, the Obama administration announced Friday, June 15, that it will use its executive power to stop the deportation of young undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria.

According to a memorandum by Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, the executive branch will order the Department of Homeland Security, and its agencies, to exercise “prosecutorial discretion,” deferring deportation for low priority cases, such as those of young undocumented immigrants.

“Our Nation’s immigration laws…[are not] designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Indeed, many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways,” Napolitano stated. “Additional measures are necessary to ensure that our enforcement resources are not
expended on these low priority cases.”

Ediberto Roman, professor at FIU’s School of Law and who specializes in Immigration Law, explains that this move is well within the President’s power to dictate its departments’ priorities.

“There were about a 100 legal experts that wrote to the president about a month ago now urging him to use his presidential executive authority to issue guidelines or a statement… that would allow the executive department to set priorities,” Roman said.

He also added that while this is an important step in the direction of an immigration reform, it is not legislation, unlike the proposed DREAM Act.

“This is an important step [but] it’s is not legislation,” Roman said. “A new president or a subsequent administration can change his mind or his view or his priorities. This is policy, not legislation. Yet, after a over decade of fighting for issues related to the DREAM Act, this is a key step.”

Roman also noted that this order is not a way for an undocumented immigrant to obtain citizenship or residency status; it is just a temporary deferment of their deportation and the chance of obtaining some education and applying for a work permit.

In order to be eligible for deferred deportation, young undocumented immigrants must meet certain criteria: Immigrant must have arrived to the United States under the age of 16, must have resided for at least five years in the country and must be under 30 years of age. In addition, the applicant must have a high school diploma, be enrolled in school or have done military service, and have a clean record.

Among the estimated 800,000 immigrants who fall in this category is the core leader of the FIU chapter of Students Working for Equal Rights, Frida Ulloa, who is double majoring in international relations and economics.

“I was introduced to S.W.E.R. back in April of 2009. Since then, I have not stopped working for the DREAM Act. I feel like I have been waiting for decades,” Ulloa said.

S.W.E.R. is an organization with over 10 chapters throughout Florida founded by undocumented students working to create possibilities for young immigrants and raise awareness of the issues affecting young immigrants. FIU’s chapter has about 30 members.

When the Dream Act was repealed in 2010, Ulloa was devastated.

“When it passed the House we were all so excited and hopeful,” she said. “S.W.E.R. Miami gathered together to watch the Senate and we were all crying.”

Obama’s policy comes as a relief to Ulloa and many S.W.E.R. members.

“I woke up in LA at 6:30 a.m. with my S.W.E.R. friends from Miami texting to our S.W.E.R. group text,” Ulloa said. “I was in shock, I cried, I laughed and then I continued being in shock.”

For Ulloa, this move also represents a chance to fight more openly for the cause she represents.

“I am not afraid anymore,” she said. “I have been pretty out there with my status. I had put fear aside to do what we do, but there was always this possibility of being detained, and deported. I think I am more relieved for my family than for myself, now they don’t have to worry when they see me in the news.”

According to Roman, the next step for these individuals is to start collecting the paperwork they need to demonstrate they are eligible.

“As soon as possible, start collecting documents,” Roman said. “People have to come up with the documentation to prove they fall within the category.”

Ulloa hopes the FIU administration will soon take action to help students that are eligible to apply for this provision.

“We want President Rosenberg and Administration to take the first step to help dreamers here at FIU,” she said. “There are ways for FIU to help Dreamers be part of our FIU community they need to start working on it. In- state tuition for those students who graduated from a high school here in Florida and have lived for the past five years in this state is more than fair.”

Roman agrees with this view and added that within the upcoming weeks, himself, and other members of the University community, will be securing ways to serve these students.

“We want to assist members of the community with this process,” he said. “We can benefit and assist our community as the major public University in the south of Florida and there is no reason why we shouldn’t undertake those efforts to provide assistance free of charge.”

Many proponents of an immigration reform believe that this policy is a right step towards the pending reform; however, both Roman and Ulloa affirm that congress needs to take action.

“It is enough of empty promises, we need actions,” Ulloa said. “The more that people educate in the matter of the DREAM Act and Immigration Reform, the more that they will understand how much this would benefit our community and our country.”

“It has powerful impact in terms of how the executive branch is going to enforce its directives, but it can be changed in the future fairly easily so the immigration struggle [and] DREAM Act struggle, [are] far from over,” Roman said. “I think it’s the first step into what is essentially going to become legislation.”

Ulloa encourages all undocumented students to not give up and always look for help.

“If you ask enough, you will find the one person that will direct you the right way. The more that you seek help the more doors that will open up to you,” she said. “No human being is ‘illegal’.”

“It’s a good day for those who belief in immigration reform and have basic sense of social equity,” Roman said. “I believe this is an important issue not only for the South Florida community but I suspect for many many individuals, even within our University community, that unfortunately have to live in the shadows. That day will hopefully come soon to an end.”


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