President Obama, Deferrals Not Enough

Most undocumented immigrants are longstanding US residentsPresident Obama has received much support and praise for his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. DACA permits qualified undocumented immigrants to apply for deferral of deportation. Those who successfully apply will be free from the risk of deportation for two years and may get work authorization to work in the US as well.

DACA is seen as a positive step forward for some, because it will potentially protect more than one million young immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the US. Currently, many qualified young immigrants are standing in line and trying to apply for DACA, hoping for a chance at a future with some legal status. For many DACA is seen as a good thing, especially since the DREAM Act was not able to pass Congress. The DREAM Act would have given qualified young immigrants a chance at a path to citizenship.

Critics of DACA, however, point out that the initiative does too little to help young immigrants who were brought to the US as children. They point out, for example, that DACA does not protect the siblings or parents of those who qualify, so it does not do a good job of protecting immigrant families. In addition, DACA does not create a path to citizenship or even a green card, so those who qualify for DACA still face a very certain future. Deferral of deportation is only available for two years, and while it is renewable, it does not provide stability for the long-term.

Another issue is that DACA excludes a large swath of undocumented immigrants. To qualify for DACA, an applicant must be younger than 30 years old and must have been brought into the US before their 16th birthday. The applicant must also have lived in the US for five years and must have a high school education or military service. Those who are 31 or who arrived in the US as 17 year olds do not qualify, which seems unfair to those who cannot apply for DACA.

In fact, critics argue that DACA does not do a good job of embodying the spirit of the DREAM Act. It does not do anything to keep families together and does not provide a long-term brighter future for those who were brought into the country illegally as children. It holds out some promise, but does not provide enough for undocumented immigrants to build a future on. Despite research showing that immigrants are beneficial to the US economy, there is a wave of anti-immigration sentiment, embodied by legislation such as the controversial Arizona immigration laws. DACA, according to critics, does too little to address what even President Obama admits is a broken immigration system.