Obama’s New Deportation Policy: Maybe Too Late, but Not Too Little

Obama’s New Deportation Policy: Maybe Too Late, but Not Too Little

Obama’s New Deportation Policy: Maybe Too Late, but Not Too Little

While the new policy is clearly politically motivated, it still has the potential to help hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people. 


(AP Photo/Matt York)

After years of complaints from immigration rights groups about the administration’s deportation policy—which is expected to toss 400,000 immigrants from the country this year—the White House announced a significant policy shift this morning. The Department of Homeland Security said that young people (between 16 and 30) who have no criminal histories will be issued work visas allowing them to find work and stay in the country.

Despite the stark-naked political motivations—to win over Latino voters and box out Congressional Republicans, who have been talking about introducing legislation with similar intent—the policy change is still meaningful. (And it shouldn’t really be a surprise that politicians do things for political reasons, though I think undocumented young people could legitimately wonder why this wasn’t enacted two years ago, when it was clear the DREAM Act was dead in Congress).

Under the new policy, as many as 800,000 young undocumented immigrants could stay in the country indefinitely if they are between 16 and 30, have no criminal histories, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, and graduated from high school (or obtained a GED, or served in the military). Under those qualifications, they can obtain a two-year visa with no limits on how often it can be renewed.

This is doubtless a huge relief to many people who came to the country without documentation when they were young and have known no other home, and have been trying to build a life while under constant fear of deportation.

Unlike previous easements of deportation policy, like last summer’s announcement that only people with criminal histories would be targeted, this shift is important because the government will issue work visas conferring legitimate legal status on people instead of just granting an understanding that they won’t be deported. Also, the policy is affirmative, meaning one can approach DHS and apply for the visa instead of waiting to be caught by authorities.

But there are several important caveats. Since this is an executive action, it could (and likely would) be reversed by President Romney in six months. Granted, the administration had no choice to go this route, since House Republicans have already declared the DREAM Act dead, but undocumented young people still know they are walking on shaky ground even with the new policy.

Previous administration efforts to ease deportations also create reasons to be skeptical. Though the administration claimed it would exercise discretion and deport only those with violent criminal histories, deportations only dropped an almost imperceptible two percent.

Without question, the new policy isn’t enough and the undocumented need a comprehensive immigration strategy to be enshrined through legislation. But with Republicans like Rubio already saying the new policy is “welcome news,” the administration may be pulling the debate to the left and making a comprehensive solution more likely.

Thank you for reading The Nation

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read, just one of the many incisive, deeply-reported articles we publish daily. Now more than ever, we need fearless journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media.

Throughout this critical election year and a time of media austerity and renewed campus activism and rising labor organizing, independent journalism that gets to the heart of the matter is more critical than ever before. Donate right now and help us hold the powerful accountable, shine a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug, and build a more just and equitable future.

For nearly 160 years, The Nation has stood for truth, justice, and moral clarity. As a reader-supported publication, we are not beholden to the whims of advertisers or a corporate owner. But it does take financial resources to report on stories that may take weeks or months to properly investigate, thoroughly edit and fact-check articles, and get our stories into the hands of readers.

Donate today and stand with us for a better future. Thank you for being a supporter of independent journalism.

Ad Policy