Today, the Obama administration announced, through the Department of Homeland Security, a prosecutorial priority policy that stops the deportation of young, undocumented immigrants who were brought here through no fault of their own and who, by all measures other than paperwork, are Americans. The order from Sec. Nepalitano accomplishes a small part of what the DREAM Act would do, except that absent Congressional consent via legislation, executive action cannot grant legal status. It would apply to any young undocumented immigrant who:
Those whose deportation proceedings are postponed (2 years at a time) under this policy, would be able to obtain work permits to work in the US legally. Speaking at the Rose Garden minutes ago, the President once again called on Congress to pass the DREAM Act, as he spoke on the policy (even as a racist heckler from The Daily Caller kept interrupting him). "We are a better nation than one that expels young people," summed up the president.
- came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
- has continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and is present in the United States on the date ofthis memorandum;
- is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
- has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety; and
- is not above the age of thirty
The president is laying down a gauntlet, challenging Congress to act, and doing whatever is humanly and legally possible for his administration. A lot of people are busy calling this a political move with the Hispanic vote in swing states possibly being a decisive factor, but it is bigger than politics. It's about the lives of the young people who will be affected. It's about their friends, their families, the communities that surround them. It's about the shame that we have a Congress that will happily send these young people to war on our behalf, but when they come back, will not grant them the status of a patriot.
Everyone with any memory lasting longer than a few minutes should understand that the DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that the current Republicans in Congress are blocking solely because of their fear of their own racist base. Young people who were brought to this country with no fault of their own and have grown up as Americans cannot be recognized as a legal part of the country they call home because of one simple reason, make no mistake: because most of them have brown skin.
It is much bigger than politics. But nothing is excluded from the effects of politics, as politics is how we make decisions about the directions this country will take. The President has taken a courageous stand and challenged his opponents. Mitt Romney, his challenger this fall, has said that undocumented folks - including young people - should just self-deport. Much of Romney's base is so submerged in racism that governors elected by them are attempting to purge their states' voter roles to make sure brown-skinned US citizens cannot vote.
Elections are how we make a choice. And here, the choice is between a president who will fight for the DREAM Act, who will fight against uprooting the lives of young people who are by nearly every sense American, and a challenger who... well, who told his contractor that they needed to stop hiring undocumented people to work at his home, because he's running for office, for Pete's sake.
One political party in this country has hung its shingles with the racists, and its strategy on scaring and dividing the American people based on everything from religion to color, from gender to sexual orientation. If we give into their politics of cynicism, hatred, and division, our country will lose its soul. If, on the other hand, we choose a path with a president who is inclusive, wants to bring us together in order to take our country forward, and truly understands the lives of ordinary Americans, our best days are ahead of us.