PHR applauds President Obama's announcement today to use his discretion to halt deportations of certain undocumented youth in the face of inaction from Congress on this issue. The Administration has sent a strong message that deporting immigrant youth is fundamentally unfair and is not sensible part of immigration enforcement. This policy shift stands in stark relief to the Administration's record number of deportations.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that young people who meet certain criteria are a low priority for immigration enforcement. An individual who meets those criteria is one who came to the US before the age of 16, has continuously resided in the country for at least 5 years, is in school or has graduated from high school or is a US veteran, has not been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors nor poses a threat to security, and is not over 30 years old. Individuals who meet these requirements will be eligible for deferred action for a two-year period, subject to renewal, which would allow youth to receive relief from removal or be kept from entering removal proceedings. While this is not a path to citizenship or other permanent status, eligible youth may apply for work authorization.
While today's announcement represents a significant positive shift in immigration policy, Congress should follow the lead and enact legislation that will solidify the President's policies. The Administration and Congress should also work together to enact sustainable comprehensive immigration reform that includes paths to citizenship for undocumented people.