When President Obama announced in June that young adults who had been brought to this nation illegally as children could be given a temporary deferment from deportation, Republicans cried foul. The president, they said, was imposing the Dream Act through unconstitutional executive fiat.
Yes, the president's action is a brazen political move in an election year.
But, no, he isn't hijacking the Constitution.
Rather, he's using a prosecutor's discretion to say, look, these kids who graduate high school and go on to college, or serve honorably in the U.S. military, and haven't gotten into serious trouble with the law, are not our highest priorities for deportation. Give them a break. Focus the nation's immigration enforcement efforts instead on the illegal aliens who are the bigger problem: human traffickers, drug runners, others who run seriously sideways of the criminal law. Devote limited resources to throwing them out of the country.
The new deferment program is open to those who came to the United States when they were under the age of 16 but are under the age of 30 now, have lived in this country for at least five years, live here now and are Americans except for the fact that their parents broke the immigration laws.
Young people who succeed in school are the kind of folks who help to build up the country. Their pursuit of the American dream makes it more likely that other Americans will realize their dreams, too. Like other aspiring Americans, they start careers and launch businesses. They create jobs. They add to the tide that lifts all boats.
They are strivers and seekers, the builders and risk-takers who have made this country great. Why would we kick them out? Because their parents brought them to this country illegally, through no fault of their own?
That doesn't make much sense.
The deferments from deportation will not be permanent. They will last for two years but will be renewable. In the meantime, the person can apply for permission to work.
And apply they are. When the forms became available this week, thousands of young aliens lined up to file them. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 1.7 million people across the nation may be eligible. Some 8,000 of them are estimated to be in Utah.
This is not the Dream Act, which is legislation in Congress that would provide undocumented aliens who were brought to this country illegally as children a path to legal status. Until that bill passes, the president's program is a good interim step. It's the right thing to do.