It's not the DREAM Act, but 'deferred action' policy is just.
The U.S. government began accepting applications Wednesday from young, undocumented immigrants seeking permission to legally work and reside in the country for two years. The Obama administration's new "deferred action" immigration policy isn't amnesty, but it is a humane measure to stop the deportations of individuals brought to the United States as children -- illegally, but through no fault of their own.
As many as 1.7 million young people may benefit from the initiative, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. They must meet stringent age, residency and schooling requirements. Military veterans and those serving in the military are eligible, too. No applicants can have any serious criminal convictions. All must pay a $465 application fee.
While the policy falls short of the much-needed DREAM Act that Congress has repeatedly refused to pass, it's nonetheless a commonsense step. In years past, Republicans as well as Democrats have rallied behind the DREAM Act, but seemingly never at the same time. The debate remains divisive, and several states have taken matters into their own hands, adopting hard-line and, in some cases, draconian laws.
Arizona has some of the nation's toughest anti-immigration laws and, sadly, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is doing all she can to prevent qualified immigrants from benefiting from the new federal policy. She signed an executive order on Wednesday barring Arizona state agencies from offering eligible undocumented immigrants access to public benefits, including driver's licenses or other state identification.
The Obama administration has deported more than 1.2 million illegal immigrants since he took office, compared with 1.6 million during the eight-year Bush administration.
The new federal policy is but a temporary measure that wisely directs Homeland Security to focus its deportation efforts on individuals with criminal convictions or those who have only recently crossed the border illegally. Still, Americans shouldn't lose sight of the fact that immigration reform is sorely needed.
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