Obama Halts DREAM Act Deportations

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It won’t give any illegal immigrants a new passage to U.S. citizenship, but the Obama administration announced today that it will stop deportations of most students who came to this country as children and have graduated from high school or served in the military and instead will emphasize deportations serious criminals.

The new policy, while not going as far as the DREAM Act, will afford protection to those who revealed their illegal status as part of their activism in support of the act, which was turned down by Congress, and thousands of others. The administration said it was not exempting a whole group of illegal immigrants from expulsion or deportation, but that it would decide on a case by case basis, applying the new guidelines.

The announcement was made on a blog by Cecilia Munoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs, and in a letter from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) a major proponent of the DREAM Act, and other key senators. Napolitano said that such “low priority cases” were clogging immigration courts and blocking efforts to concentrate on more serious cases.

Obama has fought repeatedly for passage of the DREAM Act, pushing it even during the continuing budget battles.

“The Obama administration has made the right decision in changing the way they handle deportations of DREAM Act students,” Durbin said in a statement posted on his website. “These students are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and, maybe, Senators, who will make America stronger. We need to be doing all we can to keep these talented, dedicated, American students here, not wasting increasingly precious resources sending them away to countries they barely remember. The administration’s new process is a fair and just way to deal with an important group of immigrant students and I will closely monitor DHS to ensure it is fully implemented.”

Durbin, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Inc.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had asked Napolitano in April to stop deportations of DREAM Act students.  The new policy will also cover elderly immigrants, pregnant women and various others immigrants who have shown “positive” factors.

About 300,000 pending cases will be reviewed and except in extraordinary circumstances they will be dismissed, Durbin said in his statement.

Munoz said in the White House blog that reviewers “will be applying common sense guidelines to make these decisions, like a person’s ties and contributions to the community, their family relationships and military service record. In the end, this means more immigration enforcement pressure where it counts the most, and less where it doesn’t – that’s the smartest way to follow the law while we stay focused on working with the Congress to fix it.”