Moderated by Rick Badie
On June 15, President Barack Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security would stop targeting young undocumented immigrants for deportation if they meet certain criteria. Today, a guest writer says the deferral is the proper thing to do for those who seek an education and pursue the American dream. On the opposite side, a U.S. congressman from Georgia decries the reprieve and calls it a re-election ploy that usurps the law and fails to fully address the immigration issue.
Let DREAM become reality
By Maria Duarte
One of our most cherished American values is that, with hard work and a college education, one can become whatever he or she desires.
Our teachers and parents preached this to us. As parents, we hope to ingrain this value in our children. As a nation, we strive to clear the path for our future doctors, astronauts and entrepreneurs.
Imagine a child who has everything in order to go on to college, but his or her aspirations come to a screeching halt when reality sets in that his or her options are limited.
Since the student was brought here without proper authorization from a foreign country, his or her opportunities to attend college and work legally in the U.S. are slim to none.
This student is undocumented and vulnerable for deportation.
On June 15, this sad reality was significantly altered for more than 1 million undocumented students. The Obama administration announced its new policy that exercised prosecutorial discretion to stop deportation of undocumented students who meet certain requirements.
The eligible students must have entered the U.S. before the age of 16, be younger than 30, have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years, have completed high school or obtained a GED or served in the military, and have no felony, significant misdemeanor, or multiple misdemeanor offenses. Moreover, qualifying students would be able to apply for a work permit that is renewable every two years.
That day, undocumented students across the U.S. felt hope, disbelief, and, for once, a small sense relief. This new policy is a step in the right direction.
However, this program is temporary. Moreover, it is contingent upon the current president to uphold the policy. It is not a permanent solution.
One solution has remained stalled in Congress since 2001. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act is the only legislative proposal that could provide permanent relief to undocumented students who meet certain criteria.
With little to no avail from Congress, President Barack Obama used his executive authority to provide temporary relief to deserving young adults. The Supreme Court has affirmed his ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion.
In Georgia, this announcement was greeted with cautious optimism by thousands of undocumented students and advocates.
For the past two years, state legislative proposals, such as HB 59 and SB 458, have sought to criminalize undocumented students for their desire to pursue higher education.
One of the arguments for these proposals was that undocumented students were not able to work legally in the U.S. anyway.
Now, with the Obama’s administration new policy, that argument is out.
Georgia could benefit greatly from this new policy. More students will be motivated to graduate from high school, obtain a GED or pursue college.
This could help boost Georgia’s abysmal graduation rate; a more educated workforce correlates with the potential for higher wages and increased tax revenue.
Instead of pushing for shortsighted state laws, Georgia legislators should push Congress for a permanent solution by passing the DREAM Act. Members from both sides of the aisle agree that undocumented students deserve relief. Some Republicans are moving toward the center on the DREAM Act; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has suggested he will introduce a version of the bill.
This policy was a step in the right direction. However, until the DREAM Act passes, the future of millions undocumented young adults remains uncertain.
As we celebrate the values our nation was founded on, let’s uphold our value of hard work and higher education as a pathway toward the American dream for all deserving students.
Let’s pass the DREAM Act.
Maria Duarte is program coordinator for the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
Immigration edict delays fix
By Rob Woodall
To be clear, President Barack Obama’s decision wasn’t just about deportations. It was also a commitment to grant millions of new work permits.
This presidential edict comes at a time when one in two American college graduates is unemployed or underemployed, and when jobs are at a premium for every American.
Perhaps it was a great idea for a president who is trying to find enough votes to get re-elected in November, but it was a bad idea for a president who is tasked by the U.S. Constitution with enforcing the rule of law.
At its core, America is, and has always been, a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. These roles are in concert — not conflict — with one another.
At least they are until a president tries to create laws by decree rather than through the people’s representatives in Congress.
The troubling nature of the president’s announcement has as much to do with the constitutional separation of powers and the rule of law as it does with immigration policy.
The tragic consequence of President Obama’s overreach is that it delays America even further from finding a permanent solution to our immigration challenges, some of the most morally complex problems of our time.
Residents across the country have different ideas about how to confront illegal immigration.
I believe we must streamline our current immigration laws for temporary workers and permanent residents. We must eliminate those policies that act as magnets to illegal immigrants, policies that provide jobs, birthright citizenship and access to government-financed benefits.
Other folks believe we should offer illegal immigrants a full and immediate path to citizenship.
No matter what you believe, this much is certain: By ignoring the role of Congress and the people and by choosing instead to rule by edict, the president has abandoned any desire for — and perhaps destroyed any possibility of —a long-term, bipartisan solution.
He has done that in favor of a quick fix designed to earn him the support of a key voting bloc in November.
Much as he implemented this policy with a stroke of the pen, he — and any future president — can take it away with just a stroke of the pen.
In effect, he is holding these undocumented young people as political hostages and pinning their hopes for the future on his own re-election.
I represent the most diverse congressional district in all of Georgia. In this district, we celebrate America’s history and future, again, as both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
The president’s cavalier treatment of both is troubling. There is no question about whether we must work together to find a long-term immigration solution for America.
We must make it simpler for folks who are trying to come here the right way, and tougher on folks who insist on coming the wrong way. But our Founding Fathers intended for debates of this magnitude and decisions of this significance to take place in the halls of Congress, not in the backrooms of the White House. Americans deserve permanent solutions to serious problems, not simply election-year ploys.
Congressman Rob Woodall represents Georgia District 7.