With less than six months until Election Day, courageous leadership is driving courageous action. The result is Friday’s immigration policy change, which will help keep bright young people with their families and contributing to our country.
The courage began with the DREAMers themselves. Directly impacted by a broken immigration system that threatened the safety and sanctity of their families, undocumented youth across the country told America about their immigration status.
Their courage changed the debate. No longer was America debating faceless “immigrants”; now they were debating about people who look like their children’s friends.
Then, earlier last week, the Evangelical Immigration Table released a statement of evangelical principles for immigration reform signed by more than 150 of the nation’s evangelical leaders. Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, offered, “We can and should pass legislation that respects the rule of law and honors our moral commitments to love the immigrant. Silence and inaction are not options.”
Following the teachings of the Bible, these courageous evangelicals joined Catholics and other faith leaders to bring a moral clarity to the debate.
And, Friday, the President led.
Secretary Janet Napolitano’s announcement that the Department of Homeland Security will focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, not young people who are American in every sense except their paperwork, was remarkable.
The department issued a directive under which individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for deferred action on a case-by-case basis:
1.) Came to the United States when they were younger than 16;
2.) Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years and are present in the United States today;
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; and
5.) Are not older than age 30.
This will make a tremendous difference in the lives of families all across the country.
While we celebrate the president’s action and the fact that families will remain united, there is much work to be done.
First of all, on the part of the administration, the policy must be implemented in 60 days, as noted in their announcement. Beginning Monday, June 18, individuals can call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 for more information; for people in deportation proceedings an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hotline is at 1-888-351-4024.
Second, and more important, is the question of whether Republicans will lead a backlash.
If the Supreme Court rules to uphold Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070, Republicans will have free reign to expand similar laws across the nation. In addition, Republicans in the House of Representatives could pass legislation that would take away the President’s authority to take action such as Friday’s.
And, most important, the next president could eliminate the president’s policy change with the stroke of a pen.
The courage of the DREAMers and their allies brought us to this point.
The courage and commitment of Latino voters will protect the win.
Ali Noorani is Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.