How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Obama to grant 'deferred action,' work permits to some young undocumented immigrants

Photo by Corey Moore/KPCC

Undocumented students and their supporters protest in federal office building in Los Angeles, October 12, 2011

The Obama administration announced this morning that it is granting deferred action to undocumented young people who meet certain criteria, and will even give them work permits. Is it a big deal? Definitely. The move could affect hundreds of thousandsof young people who came to the United States as minors and have been unable to adjust their immigration status.

It's also interesting in terms of election-year political timing, with the Obama administration getting unfavorable reviews lately over its ongoing deportation case reviews, which have yielded relief for very few immigrants so far, just over 4,000 out of roughly 300,000 cases. And the fact that two Republican lawmakers have been floating proposals that could keep some undocumented college students and military hopefuls in the country has likely played a part also.

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Who is a 'low priority' under DHS deportation guidelines?

Photo by davipt/Flickr (Creative Commons)

After yesterday's announcement from the Department of Homeland Security that it will review some 300,000 cases of immigrants in the deportation pipeline, potentially sparing many from removal, a Obama administration official posting on the White House Blog linked to "common sense guidelines" that will be applied in deciding who goes and who stays.

An excerpt from what was posted by Cecilia Muñoz, White House intergovernmental affairs director:

So DHS, along with the Department of Justice, will be reviewing the current deportation caseload to clear out low-priority cases on a case-by-case basis and make more room to deport people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk. And they will take steps to keep low-priority cases out of the deportation pipeline in the first place. They will be applying common sense guidelines to make these decisions, like a person’s ties and contributions to the community, their family relationships and military service record.

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DHS shift 'doesn't provide permanent status for anyone:' A Twitter Q&A with the White House

Photo by Tom Lohdan/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Obama administration's announcement yesterday that it would back off on deporting "low priority" immigrants who don't present a public safety threat is being cheered by immigrant advocates, but questions remain as to who will benefit and to what extent.

According to the announcement, the deportation cases of immigrants with no criminal records and strong ties to the United States - particularly young people who arrived as children, military veterans and their families - will be reviewed on a case by case basis, and many could be spared deportation. Some people allowed to stay might even qualify for work permits.

But what kind of long-term solution does this represent, if any? Several pertinent questions were brought up yesterday during a live Twitter Q&A chat with White House intergovernmental affairs director Cecilia Muñoz. Among those who joined the discussion was Jose Antonio Vargas, an award-winning journalist who recently revealed his undocumented status. Here's a Storify(ed) timeline of the chat via the White House Blog.

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What does the DHS policy shift on deportation mean?

The Obama administration announced this afternoon that it will make further changes to the way deportation cases are handled, potentially sparing many "low priority" immigrants such as youths who arrived here as children and military families from deportation, and allowing some the opportunity to work legally.

From a new post on the White House blog from Cecilia Muñoz, the White House's director of intergovernmental affairs:

Today, they announced that they are strengthening their ability to target criminals even further by making sure they are not focusing our resources on deporting people who are low priorities for deportation. This includes individuals such as young people who were brought to this country as small children, and who know no other home. It also includes individuals such as military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel. It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low-priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes.

So DHS, along with the Department of Justice, will be reviewing the current deportation caseload to clear out low-priority cases on a case-by-case basis and make more room to deport people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk. And they will take steps to keep low-priority cases out of the deportation pipeline in the first place. They will be applying common sense guidelines to make these decisions, like a person’s ties and contributions to the community, their family relationships and military service record.

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Opting out of Secure Communities? Not so fast, ICE official says

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The California Assembly voted last week to approve a bill that seeks to extricate the state from Secure Communities, a federal immigration enforcement program in which the fingerprints of people who land in local jails are checked against a database of immigration records.

The bill, which now moves to the state Senate, would allow California to renegotiate its contract with the Department of Homeland Security, letting local jurisdictions opt out of what is now a mandatory program or the state to opt out altogether.

But can this really happen? Not so fast, says a top Homeland Security official interviewed by KPCC's Kitty Felde. From a story today:

John Morton, director of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says local jurisdictions don’t have the power to pick and choose.

"An individual state can’t come to the federal government and say, 'We don’t want the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to share information or seek to prevent that information sharing.' That is between federal departments."

The bill still needs approval from the state Senate, and from Gov. Jerry Brown, who supported Secure Communities when he was California’s attorney general.

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