President Obama recently announced a policy to stop deportation of most undocumented immigrants who came here as children and to give them a quasi-status, called deferred action, that can let them work legally. Perhaps 800,000 Dreamers (as these young migrants are known, because they would be covered under most versions of the long-stalled Dream Act) will benefit.
Pundits have been quick to label this initiative a kind of presidential penance for alienating Latino supporters through his alleged policy of “record deportations.” Others say the new initiative is lawless, defying or nullifying statutes Congress has passed.
Both camps are wrong. In fact, the Dreamer policy was largely made possible, both politically and legally, by the administration’s resolute, focused deportation policy. Immigrant advocacy groups should begin appreciating this balanced accomplishment.
Since Obama’s inauguration, advocates have pressured the president to trim way back on deportations, in the name of prosecutorial discretion. Some even suggested that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should deport only people with serious felony convictions, which would cut removals to no more than half — and probably more like a quarter — of the 397,000 ICE enforced in 2011.