Starting next month, DREAM Act-eligible immigrants will be able to apply for the Obama administration’s new administrative relief program, but some observers believe the effort falls short of what immigrants most need.
The Deferred Action policy would cancel deportations of unauthorized immigrants between 16 and 30 years old who are either in school, are college graduates, or are active duty or veteran military personnel.
As details emerge, some observers express doubt that the program will deliver true relief to more than a million potential applicants.
A former senior attorney for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Patricia Corrales is now an attorney in private practice. She says people regard the new policy as a sort of amnesty, but that simply isn’t the case.
“It doesn’t allow them to obtain their residency. It doesn’t provide them with an opportunity to apply to get their residency. And it certainly doesn’t give them any opportunity to apply for citizenship," she said. "So I think it falls absolutely short from tackling the biggest issue — and that is comprehensive immigration reform.”
Corrales says people eligible for deferred action may apply to stay in the country with two-year work permits, but the United States would not grant them citizenship. After November’s elections, a different president could choose to get rid of the policy.
“If for some reason, Obama is no longer our president, a new administration can change and revoke the Deferred Action policy," she said. "Then they might look at the policy and say, 'You know what? This is just too lackadaisical; it just avoids our obligation under the immigration laws to do our job, and that is to deport people who are here illegally'.”
Recent Homeland Security documents reveal that officials expect the program to cost the government more than $585 million, and could require hiring more than 1,400 new federal employees to handle an expected flood of applications. However, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has described Deferred Action as “a fee-driven process,” which will have to be paid for by applicants.