The Obama administration today is announcing new immigration policies, bringing about many of the goals of the DREAM Act, which has stalled in Congress. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is cheering the changes, the most significant portion of which would end the practice of deporting younger illegal immigrants who have led generally law-abiding lives.
Harkin says, “Yes, I’m very much in favor of the DREAM Act and applaud the Obama administration for their steps in this direction.” The DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.
Under the new initiative, immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children would be granted work permits, if they meet certain criteria. The change is expected to impact some 800,000 illegal immigrants who have long feared being sent home.
Harkin says, “It just seems a violation of human rights, unfair, for a child who’s been brought here illegally by parents or others, had no choice in the matter, but who has grown up here and is going to school here to be summarily deported.” The plan is being announced today by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Under the initiative, illegal immigrants would be immune from deportation if they were brought into the country before they were 16 and they’re now under 30. They’d also need to have been in the U.S. for at least five straight years and have a clean criminal record.
They’d also need to have either served in the military, graduated from an American high school or have a GED. Harkin, a Democrat, says these individuals shouldn’t be punished for actions that were beyond their control, like being brought across the border by a parent.
“Many of these young kids maybe don’t even have families there anymore,” Harkin says. “Maybe their families are here or elsewhere. This, to me, is just fairness, equity and human rights. It’s fundamental.”
Harkin says he’s still hopeful the DREAM Act will pass Congress. He blames Republican opposition for its repeated failures.
Iowa’s other Senator, Chuck Grassley, a Republican, issued this statement on the Obama plan:
“The President’s action is an affront to the process of representative government by circumventing Congress and with a directive he may not have the authority to execute. The President once denied that he had the legal authority to do this, and Congress was assured more than once that the administration would consider individuals for this sort of deferred status on a case-by-case basis only, and that there was no plan to implement a broad-based program. It seems the President has put election-year politics above responsible policies. On top of providing amnesty to those under 30 years old, the administration now will be granting work authorizations to illegal immigrants at the same time young Americans face record-high unemployment rates. Americans also deserve to know how this amnesty program for hundreds of thousands of people will be funded, and whether resources for border security and enforcement will be diverted. Congress has the authority to write immigration laws, and with this order the President is disregarding the voice of the people through their elected representatives in Congress.”