No Blanket Deferred Action for DREAM Act Students

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 08:  U.S.  Rep. Luis...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Here’s a persistent media myth that needs to die: President Obama is not deporting undocumented students. Actually, he is.

The President keeps reiterating his support for the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform. He did so on Univision last night. At the same time, undocumented and documented immigration advocates keep pointing out that Obama has deported more people than Bush and Secretary Napolitano seems proud of this fact.

I share the frustration that most of my friends feel on this matter. The most President Obama has done is make a few phone calls, a website banner, a speech — no direct lobbying, no campaigning, no real engaging of the American people on this issue. At the same time, I’m not sure how effective it is to keep asking Obama to grant a blanket deferred actionprosecutorial discretion to not deport — eligible DREAM Act students.

For one, I’ve yet to get a standard legal definition for a “dreamer.” There’s no pending legislation with markers and no chance of one passing before 2013. Without one, I wonder how advocates expect USCIS/DHS to create a blanket deferred action policy. These are details that matter. I can’t possibly lobby for an undefinable blanket deferred action policy for all immigrant youth when I’m in a room with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, who actually do want to help keep the best and brightest in this country. Honestly, these are former alum from my law school and people with backgrounds in international human rights who need something concrete to cover them. I’ve yet to get anything concrete from anyone.

In order to grant some segment of the undocumented youth population blanket deferred action, DHS would need to create a registry of eligible youth. Advocates can keep playing the same fiddle but pigs would fly before that happens absent Congressional action on the issue. Senator Durbin has spoken to Napolitano over at DHS on this on several different occasions and come up with nothing. At best, DHS has to do this on a case by case basis, which it has in the past in the cases of several students. However, I will not defend the amount of lobbying and campaigning each individual case takes. The message to DREAM youth right now is “get arrested, make some noise and we’ll offer you deferred action” and I don’t like that message.

For the next two years, I see an immediate window of opportunity to establish deferred action for same-sex bi-national couples and actually winning relief through the overturning of DOMA. I’ve said that on several occasions. Additionally, with backlogged petitions, clogged immigration courts and a Congress that is unwilling to act on immigration reform, USCIS would need to find more creative ways to maximize judicial economy and efficiency. The best possible win for everyone would be for people with approved petitions to gain prosecutorial discretion without living in limbo.

Anyway, I heard at a movie screening at my law school for Tony and Janina’s Wedding that Rep. Luis Gutierrez is launching his familias unidas tour all over again. All the best.

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