The Obama administration will kick off one of the most sweeping changes in immigration policy in decades Wednesday, allowing an estimated 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants to apply for the temporary right to live and work openly in the United States without fear of deportation.
Immigrants have waited for final details of the plan in the two months since President Obama pledged to brush aside years of congressional stalemate over the Dream Act and grant de facto residency to qualified immigrants who were brought to the country as children.
On Tuesday, officials surprised advocacy groups by posting the application forms online one day early. Advocates across the country are planning workshops Wednesday for hundreds of immigrants eager to learn who will qualify and how to apply.
As Ned Resnikoff explained, eligibility applies to immigrants to came to the United States illegally before they turned 16, are now between the ages of 15 and 30, and have been living in the United States for at least five years. Additionally, they must be either students, high school graduates, or honorably discharged service members.
This is, not surprisingly, being treated by immigration advocates as cause for great celebration. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told the Post, “This is single largest opportunity we’ve had since [the amnesty program of] 1986 to bring people out of the shadows and into documented status,” referencing the Reagan amnesty policy of a quarter-century ago.
Republicans continue to speak out against Obama’s policy – Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) called it “unconscionable” yesterday – though less so at the national level. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan oppose the Dream Act, but given their fear of alienating millions of Latino voters, both seem reluctant to say much of anything about the subject today.
If the Romney-Ryan ticket wins in November, it’s likely Obama’s new policy will be undone and the hopes of so many families will be dashed, but for now, it’s a “dream” come true families who’ve waited a generation for this kind of progress.