Friday’s incredible announcement that the White House will be deferring the deportation of DREAM Act students, that is younger undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and have since led law-abiding lives, is the latest in a series of moves initiated by President Obama to fix a broken immigration system.
A system which Congressional Republicans have steadfastly refused to help reform.
The administration’s most recent move cannot be seen as an isolated instance in an election year because it is just one of many times when the president has stepped up to fix an inherited, broken system.
Simply put, without the legislative work the White House utilized in introducing prosecutorial discretion in August of last year, the current relief for "DREAMers" would be impossible.
These actions are merely the tip of the iceberg.
Here are the facts: the president has invested in our border to increase safety, increased legal immigration and trade, and has lowered the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country. Quite simply this administration has done a lot to fix an anachronistic immigration system which no longer works for our country.
The Republican Party has not been able to pass a single piece of legislation that would do anything to fix our immigration system. They have tried to pass mandatory E-Verify, a national employment verification system; the leadership in the House could not even bring this to the House floor.
On the issue of immigration, when it comes to actually pro-actively coming up with ideas to make the legal system of immigration into the country the Republican Party is utterly impotent.
Currently Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will not even utter the word “immigration” in public. Forever living in mortal fear of angering Tea Party activists or further alienating Hispanic activists, has effectively boxed Romney in on this issue.
Romney has consistently said that he would veto the DREAM Act as president. On the other hand Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio has thus far been unable to get any support from his party for a Republican version of the DREAM Act, and has yet to release any legislation.
In reality the deferment of deportation of our best and brightest undocumented immigrants is smart, fair policy. In no way does it give a pathway to legal citizenship, IT merely offers those who were brought to the United States as young children, who do not present a risk to national security or public safety, an opportunity to continue to contribute to our society as a whole.
Furthermore, any immigrant with a criminal background is ineligible for this deferment. This will prevent the deportation of as many as 800,000 of our best and brightest undocumented immigrants.
Let us be clear: we are NOT talking about millions of people. Still, this has not prevented Texas Republican Rep.Lamar Smith from stating: “President Obama’s decision to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants is a breach of faith with the American people.”
This is not only false, it also highlights a highlights a very real divide between the president’s vision for our country. It is a question of progress versus the stagnation presented in the “enforcement only” version of our immigration system as espoused by the Republican Party.
The reality is that this latest move is very much consistent with President Obama's overall vision of fixing our immigration system. This move by the administration is fair. It will not lead toward citizenship but will remove the threat of deportation and grant those who have been in the United States most of their lives the ability to work here legally.
Cecilia Munoz, White House Domestic Policy Adviser, characterizes this as a next step in a series of administration moves to fix our broken immigration system. One could argue that this is one of the most significant steps in recent immigration reform in recent memory. It is this type of bold leadership which will eventually lead to broader reforms of our broken immigration system.
Kristian Ramos is NDN’s Policy Director of the 21st Century Border Initiative. He also works on Immigration, Hispanic Demographics and the Southwest Border for the think tank. Before working at NDN, Kristian worked in the United States Senate for Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate Democratic Communications Center. Follow him on Twitter @kramos1841.