In another push to get Congress to pass some kind of comprehensive immigration reform, the Obama administration announced it will stop deporting students and other unauthorized immigrants who do not pose a public safety threat and allow them to work in the country legally.
As part of this policy change, a new federal group will review the 300,000 backlogged deportation cases with an eye toward prosecuting criminals and similar high-priority cases. But for those cases involving upstanding high school and college students who were brought here illegally, military veterans and adults with no criminal record and strong family ties to the US, federal officials will effectively close those cases.
It’s about time.
Critics were quick to jump on the announcement as “administrative amnesty” or “backdoor amnesty,” while most Democrats applauded the measure.
The policy only affects those who have already been placed into deportation proceedings. And those immigrants who are deemed a low priority are not free from prosecution. Immigration officials will simply close their file but have the ability to reopen the case and continue with proceedings at any time.
Administration officials hope the case-by-case review will save time and resources by allowing immigration authorities to focus first and foremost on the most dangerous in their custody.
It is too soon to tell the immediate impact of the policy change, but at least on the surface this represents a big change in direction and is a good reminder that DREAM Act legislation would have passed this Congress, had Republicans shown enough statesmanship to put it up for a vote.
Photo from barnaby via flickr.