Let this be the beginning, not the end.
We applaud President Barack Obama’s move to stop deporting young immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.
Obama’s Friday announcement, which could impact more than one million people, allows young undocumented immigrants to obtain work permits provided they meet a series of qualifications. Those include that the individuals have immigrated to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived here for at least five successive years without a criminal history.
It does not give immigrants amnesty or a pathway to citizenship. However, the president’s action is a momentous step in the right direction. It’s great to know that these people who contribute to our country — who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans — won’t be deported. It also gives people an incentive to pursue higher education or to serve in the armed forces.
The announcement by no means quells the need for the passage of the federal DREAM Act, which would indeed provide a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who serve in the military or go on to college. Obama’s administration has even stated that the policy change is not a permanent fix, and that the only way to do so would be for Congress to pass the DREAM Act.
Hence the political implications. Just months before the presidential election, it is hard not to see the political advantages — or disadvantages — of the president’s policy change. Yes, the announcement will probably help Obama secure the Hispanic vote. It probably helps his chances in battleground states like Nevada and New Mexico. It probably hurts Sen. Marco Rubio, a leading Republican seen as a possible vice-presidential candidate for the GOP’s presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. Romney has already said he would veto the DREAM Act.
So what if it’s political? Obama is, after all, a politician. What should matter is that he did the right thing. And those politics probably don’t matter all that much to the millions of immigrants who can now live in the U.S. without the fear of deportation.
With all the gridlock currently in Congress, there is nothing wrong with using the power of the executive branch. Still, we would like to see Obama work with Congress to make a permanent solution, as this policy change helps in the short term. It is a placeholder for the DREAM Act. And now, with less of a fear of being deported, these immigrants can rally around the DREAM Act and push to make this immigration reform more far-reaching and permanent.
We are elated with the president’s move, but this shouldn’t be the end.
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