Today, the President and Secretary of Homeland Security are announcing a major initiative to protect young undocumented immigrants raised in the United States from being deported. The policy, contained in a memo by Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, will give "deferred action," a form of deportation relief and work authorization, to those who are already in deportation proceedings and to those who go through a process to apply affirmatively for relief. They will be granted a two-year deferred action if they meet certain criteria.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), as Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), led the effort to seek administrative relief for immigrants with clean criminal records and deep roots in their communities, like those who are eligible for the DREAM Act. This included getting arrested in front of the White House at a demonstration in 2012 calling for the White House to grant relief from deportation for select individuals.
The following is a statement by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez:
For a year and a half after the DREAM Act was filibustered, I have been standing with others and saying to the President 'yes you can' prevent the deportation of DREAMers and now he and the Secretary clearly agree and are taking proper action. This could protect 800,000 or more young immigrants with roots here right now, and will be seen in the immigrant and Latino community as a very significant down payment on broader reform. It is the right thing to do and I am overjoyed and proud that the President has acted.
DREAMers who came here at a young age have grown up believing that our country would eventually embrace them as much as they have embraced this country and now that is coming true, at least on a provisional basis. No group of young immigrants has fought harder or more bravely for their place in our country than the DREAMers and we have all taken a lesson from their tenacity and leadership.
The details of this program are still being finalized, so immigrants across the country should be patient and very skeptical of anyone who claims to have all the answers immediately. I was told the government needs at least 60 days to put things in place and I will work with the President and Secretary Napolitano to get clear and accurate information out about who does and does not qualify for the relief in the Secretary's memo as soon as possible.
This will be a process to evaluate each individual case to see if they qualify for the two-year relief, but it is a tremendous first step towards addressing the problems caused by our outdated and inflexible immigration system.
But this is a time to celebrate. The DREAMers are not the sum total of the immigration issue and even with today's announcement, the DREAM Act legislation is still needed to give people permanent relief beyond the two-year reprieve. And many other immigrants with no criminal history and deep roots here deserve the same consideration and we will keep fighting for them.
This sets the ball in motion to break the gridlock and fix our laws so that people who live here can do so legally and on-the-books and people can come with visas instead of smugglers in the first place. Today the students are being protected, but we have to fix the system for their families and for the country once and for all.