The Obama administration’s program to defer deportation for young undocumented immigrants will be up and running on Aug. 15, but the program’s success will depend on a host of details that will be worked out on a case-by-case basis.
Department of Homeland Security’s decision to give two-year deferrals to young people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, announced in the Rose Garden by President Obama last month, may be the most ambitious immigration plan ever undertaken by a federal agency. Hundreds of thousands of illegal-immigrant teens and young adults could submit applications to DHS, essentially outing themselves to federal authorities, and hope for the best. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitanorepeatedly used the term “case-by-case” at a hearing on Thursday to describe how the agency would handle the applications.
And just to add to the drama, the unprecedented immigration program will also be subjected to a high degree of scrutiny from critics as it is being rolled out. No pressure, DHS.
The deferral program is the most significant development on the immigration front since Obama took office. Undocumented teenagers and young adults who lack papers now have a way to stay in the country legally, provided they meet the eligibility criteria. (They can’t have criminal records, for example.) This is the administration’s answer to the stalled Dream Act to grant legal status to those kids. The Dream Act is part of Obama’s larger comprehensive immigration plan that would give qualified illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. He and Napolitano cannot win over Republicans, so DHS is hefting its own authority to give the “dreamers” some relief.
DHS will issue guidelines on Aug. 1 that will spell out how to apply and illustrate the kinds of documents that would prove an applicant’s residency in the United States and other eligibility criteria, Napolitano said. School transcripts, residency records, and medical records will be among the papers that DHS adjudicators will examine.
There are a lot of logistical questions about DHS’s program, and Napolitano attempted to answer some of them before the . Applicants’ undocumented parents will not be eligible for the deferral program, she said. (The parents can apply for individual deferrals under separate existing programs, however.) There will be an application fee, as well as a very small chance for a waiver of that fee under extreme and compelling circumstances. DHS will be seeking help from the Justice Department to protect applicants from fraudsters who tell potential applicants that they need notaries and other unnecessary and costly services to apply for deferrals.