On Friday, June 15, President Barack Obama signed a memorandum intended to change the course of immigration.
The memorandum demands that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol officials “exercise prosecutorial discretion with respect to individuals who came to the United States as children.”
In other words, immigrants who arrived in the US as children and have come to know it as their only home will now be categorized as a “low priority case” because they have generally lacked any unlawful intent. As such, they will likely not be deported if they meet the following criteria:
• They arrived in the US prior to age 16;
• They have continuously resided in the US for a minimum of five years;
• They are currently in school, have already graduated high school or have obtained a GED or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or US Armed Forces;
• They have never been convicted of a felony offense, convicted of misdemeanor offense(s) or are otherwise perceived as a threat to national security or public safety;
• They are not above the age of thirty.
According to the ACLU, the Department of Homeland Security can change its internal regulations and in order to determine how to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. This particular change would allow qualifying immigrants to apply for a work permit and begin their citizenship process.
“Today, the administration has provided these young adults the opportunity to pursue the American Dream,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said in a statement.
“For years,” she continued, “DREAMers have lived with the constant nightmare that they will be deported from the only home they’ve ever known. Today, that nightmare has come to an end, at least temporarily.”
But some issues still remain, like the fact that the DREAM Act ― which would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who arrived in the US as children and have graduated high school ― has yet to be passed.
“The [Obama] administration cannot provide these youth with a path to U.S. citizenship,” said Joanne Lin, legislative counsel for the ACLU. “The ACLU calls upon all members of Congress to pass the DREAM Act ….”
ACLU officials say this change in immigration law coincides with the 30th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plyer v. Doe, in which the high court made clear that all children, regardless of their immigration status, must be welcomed in the nation’s public K-12 schools.