If all goes according to the Deferred Action plan announced on June 15, 2012, America will become a stronger nation.
In her announcement Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano said that “Certain young people were brought to this country as children and know only this country as home… these individuals lacked the intent to violate the law.” She continued on to praise the contributions these young people have already made to our country. This policy change will allow the best and brightest young people, to earn their legal immigration status after a rigorous and lengthy process. It also does much to strengthen our economy, security, and our nation:
- This deferred action plan will contribute to our military’s recruitment efforts and readiness. Secretary of Defense Gates has previously emphasized the rich precedent of non-citizens serving in the U.S. military.
- It will allow our immigration and border security experts to focus on those who pose a serious threat to our nation’s security. Secretary Napolitano believes that this is a fair way to deal with innocent children brought to the U.S. at a young age so that the Department of Homeland Security can dedicate their enforcement resources to detaining and deporting criminals and those who pose a threat to our country.
- It will make our country more competitive in the global economy. Granting deferred action will allow these young people to live up to their fullest potential and contribute to the economic growth of our country. In particular it will play an important part in the nation’s efforts to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, something vital for America to remain competitive in today’s global economy. Ohio is below the national average in the percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree. Companies increasingly decide to locate in states that have an educated workforce.
- Deferred action will have important economic benefits. According to a recent UCLA study, students that would be impacted by deferred action could add between $1.4 to $3.6 trillion in taxable income to our economy over the course of their careers, depending on how many ultimately gain legal status. This income is substantially higher than the income they would earn if they were unable to attend and complete a college education. In fact, research indicates that the average college graduate earned nearly 60 percent more than a high-school graduate. We have much to gain from doing right by these young people.
After years of activism, as well as disappointment endured by the immigrant community, this action helps renew the “hope” immigrants had in the Obama administration and should provide the basis for more change to come.
We have yet to see how the program will be administered, and whether the vast majority of requests for deferred action will be granted, or only a small number.
As we painfully witnessed under the Morton Memo released last summer by ICE, which announced a new prosecutorial discretion policy for low priority cases, sometimes the euphoria of the moment can be quelled when the real story comes out.
We recently learned that only 2% of deportation cases have been granted relief under the Morton Memo and that many undocumented immigrants, without criminal convictions, continued to be arrested and deported, often after being discovered during a routine traffic stop.
Notwithstanding this Administration’s track record, I am cautiously optimistic that we are on the road to real progress in normalizing the lives of thousands of hard-working immigrants. If for no other reason, I am optimistic because the vast majority of applicants for deferred action will not already be in removal proceedings and will therefore apply for deferred action relief with USCIS. This bodes well in terms of placing the majority of adjudications before an agency that grants immigration benefits, as opposed to an agency like ICE which enforces violations of law,
Let’s celebrate this important first step. And get ready to file for relief!
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Richard Herman is a nationally-known immigration attorney with 20+ years of experience representing families and businesses in all aspects of immigration law. Richard was voted for inclusion in the 2015 edition of The Best Lawyers in America© and listed in Super Lawyers© for ten consecutive years, Richard is the founder of the Herman Legal Group, an immigration law firm serving clients in over 12 languages from offices in Cleveland, Columbus and Detroit, whose attorneys have represented diverse clientele, from Fortune 500 companies to undocumented workers, from technology entrepreneurs to NFL teams. He is the co-author of the acclaimed book, Immigrant, Inc. ---Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Richard has appeared FOX News (The O’Reilly Factor), ABC News 20/20, National Public Radio, and has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Inc., PC World, Computerworld, CIO, TechCrunch and InformationWeek.
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