TPS: turning DREAM into a U.S. nightmare
Deferred action has always been available to immigrants for special or humanitarian reasons, while law enforcement has always enjoyed so-called prosecutorial discretion. However, we have never seen a deferred action program systematized and boiled down to a simple application process like President Obama’s recent action. This program may be around for a long time.
The ramifications of the new DREAM Deferred Action program can be understood by reviewing the “temporary” benefits provided by Temporary Protected Status, or “TPS”. Authorized by Section 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), TPS gives the President power to designate countries suffering from natural disasters, wars, or internal turmoil. Once designated, citizens of those countries who are in the U.S. (and there are always strict time, physical presence, and criminal background requirements) are able to apply for TPS. Although it is not a path to permanent residence or citizenship, once a country is designated, it takes a long time before its TPS designation under Section 244 of the INA is removed.
For example, Honduras was designated for TPS in 1999 after a hurricane. Honduran citizens in the U.S. at the time of the designation could apply for TPS. That hurricane happened 13 years ago, but Honduras is still re-designated for the TPS program about every 18 months with no end in sight.
The glaring difference between TPS and the new DREAM Deferred Action program is that while TPS is provided for in the federal statute, the DREAM Deferred Action program is the result of administrative rulemaking. President Obama has bypassed Congress, in a way that is clearly politically calculated to maximize the benefit to him during the re-election season.
We are all sympathetic to the difficult immigration circumstances of those who come to the U.S. illegally as children. However, the DREAM Deferred Action program is not a proper solution.
The program raises a lot of legitimate concerns about its far-reaching consequences. Obama claims that only his administration and the federal government have the authority to establish immigration policy.
But by this action he is asking states to “handle” the implementation of his policy through the granting state IDs, scholarships, and other benefits to persons who are still technically illegal aliens. The actual intent of this action seems to be to create political upheaval in those states who want him to enforce immigration laws.
Immigration law is complicated enough, and the DREAM Deferred Action program will only confuse matters more. The “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007” was defeated by both Republicans and Democrats, but Obama could have re-introduced it in Congress while the Democrats held a super-majority between 2008-2010.
Obama has provided temporary work permits to illegal aliens who will compete for jobs with citizens that can’t find one. Furthermore, with a state-issued ID, will these “Dreamers” now be able to register to vote? The DREAM Deferred Action program is designed to help Obama’s re-election bid, and will do nothing to address the broader and more complicated immigration issues facing our country.