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More Information About Obama's New DREAM Policy

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Dream Act UpdatesOn Friday, President Obama and DHS announced welcome news that undocumented youth are now free from deportation, and can register to receive work permits. And while we’re still gleaning information on how this process will work, we thought that in the meantime, we’d pull together a list of resources that might prove most helpful to those wanting to learn more about it.

To start, DHS issued this press statement to break the news, outlining that those who meet the following criteria will be eligible “on a case by case” basis.  Here are the criteria:

1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;

2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;

3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;

5. Are not above the age of thirty.

Then, the Center for American Progress posted a quick list of “Six Things You Need to Know About Deferred Action and DREAM Act Students,” noting that “though the president’s action cannot grant permanent legal status, it is a significant step forward that will give piece of mind and the ability to work to a significant group of people.”  Read it in full, here.

Explaining the importance of Obama’s new policy for undocumented youth, the New Republic came out with this article over the weekend:

Why are advocates so excited? Because this is the most important reform the White House can make without going to a deadlocked Congress for new legislation. With Republicans blocking even the most trivial legislation, no one has any realistic hope for a comprehensive immigration reform law in the near future. Even the DREAM Act, which passed the Democratic-controlled House in late 2010, was blocked by a minority in the Senate (55 votes in its favor were not enough).

But this policy will provide relief to so-called DREAMers: people who were brought to the United States at a young age; who count America as their home country; who, though here illegally, are not here as a result of intentionally breaking the law. They will now be able to come forward and apply for deferred action, which will grant them relief from deportation for two years. They’ll also be able to apply for work authorization, so they can support themselves as well. The policy may affect as many as one million undocumented immigrants who would have been eligible for the DREAM Act. After the two years are up, they can reapply for an extension of those benefits.

An announcement from the Department of Homeland Security outlines just who is eligible for this relief. Applicants must have come to the U.S. before turning 16; they must not be older than 30; they must have continuously resided here for five years; they cannot have committed a felony, serious misdemeanor, or multiple misdemeanors; and they must be in school, have graduated high school, obtained a GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran. In other words: This is not a blanket policy for anyone who arrived here as a child—applicants must demonstrate some merit. Nor, as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano emphasized this morning on a press call, is this “amnesty.” The policy does not provide a path to citizenship or legal permanent resident status. “It is not immunity; it is not amnesty,” she said. “It is an exercise of discretion.” Immigration policy, she argued, is “not designed to remove productive young people” to countries they don’t know.

And while earlier moves by the administration on immigration have brought disappointment, this policy could actually mean relief for hundreds of thousands who deserve it. First, the directive is written in clear, strong language—and it appears to actually be more of a directive than a “recommendation.” In the past, discretion has been, well, discretionary, and non-compliance among field-level immigration officers has hampered attempts by headquarters to change enforcement. This time, there seems to be a firmer, more mandate-like approach from the leadership. (Though, to be sure, people will be watching closely to make sure the policy is implemented.)

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we need those who are eligible to heed the following warning – from United We DREAM:

ALERT! Celebrate Obama’s announcement but PLEASE do not fall victim to fraud & scams. WAIT for more information; you cannot apply now. Contact trusted organizations for more info: United We Dream

We understand that you will have plenty of questions about this new policy in the days to come, and we hope to do our best to provide answers. While that happens, we’ll be posting regularly about the new directive, so stay tuned for more on this.

**For those of you who want more in-depth information, read the following memo and FAQ from the Department of Homeland Security:

  1. The DHS memorandum announcing the deferred action policy
  2. The DHS FAQ