The Obama Administration isn’t waiting for a stalled Congress to make a decision on immigration policy for youth, and Queens politicians and community groups are applauding the initiative.
President Obama issued a policy directive halting the deportation of illegal students who would qualify for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act on June 15. Some Republican politicians nationwide, even some who would support the change legislatively, are calling the policy directive a ploy to grab the Latino vote in the upcoming presidential election.
Many Queens politicians disagree, saying the president made the right call.
“For many undocumented immigrants, America is the only country they know.In their hearts and minds they are American. Sadly, Republicans either can’t, or choose not to understand this. By blocking the DREAM Act, they denied millions of undocumented Americans the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) said.
The DREAM Act, if passed, would provide conditional permanent residency to undocumented youth who have a clean record, graduated from high school, arrived in the States as minors and have lived here for at least five years. The act failed in 2009 and was reintroduced in 2011, but no legislative action has been taken since then, prompting the president to act.
But it is unclear if the president’s support will push Congress to make a decision.
“It sends a clear and loud message,” Youth Organizer at Make the Road New York Natalia Aristizabal said. “But we are going to continue to fight. It’s not going to pass because one person says so.”
She added that many Queens residents have called in the last few days since the announcement to learn more about the presidential directive.
“Creating paths to citizenship makes economic sense and is most certainly good for New York,” said City Comptroller John Liu in a statement.
Liu added that many of these young people’s documentation status is out of their control because they were brought here by their parents at a young age.
Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) also issued a statement, saying, “This move not only is a significant step forward that will change the lives of young immigrants in New York City and throughout the country, but also illustrates the urgent need for reform of our immigration system.” Crowley added that he hopes the change could expedite immigration reform.
The Reformed Church of Highland Park held an event on Friday asking for Obama to also protect illegal alien parents of documented children. Several undocumented Indonesians are members of the church and have seen increased deportation efforts.
“I am now waiting to see the President to be as reasonable for U.S. kids and for victims of persecution as he was last Friday for DREAMers,” church spokesman Keith Kaper said. “I am deeply thankful for President Obama’s willingness to take a stand for young people who came here to the U.S. as children.”
Daniela Alulema [member of Make the Road New York] with the New York State Youth Leadership Council, a DREAM Act advocacy group largely made up of illegal students, said the group is excited about the president’s announcement, but still skeptical.
“We hope it’s not only a memo, but also implemented,” Alulema said.
YLC said last year the prosecutorial discretion announcement, which directed immigration to not deport students and people with children, was not enforced.
Additionally, YLC is asking the Obama administration to drop pending deportation cases of students in New York City within the next 30 days.
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