US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Obama relents and slows deportations

Father Tom Joyce CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The Obama administration has been under enormous pressure from his Hispanic allies to use his administrative powers to reduce deportations. To this point the president has resisted. But Thursday Homeland Security announced that low-priority cases of unauthorized immigration, which have been clogging immigration courts, would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and, using “prosecutorial discretion” the department would allow them to stay. Those low-priority cases include “the dreamers”--those who would have benefited from passage of the Dream Act--to those who had been picked up by the police for a minor traffic violation and got swept up by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents through the Secure Communities program. It will mean an immediate review of the 300,000 cases the courts are considering now and the possibility for others to apply for review. Coming with permission to stay will require a green card, permission to work. The immigrant must have a clean record and not be a threat to the country’s security.

The new policy was welcomed by Sen. Dick Durbin, who has pushed the Dream Act in the Senate for 10 years as fairness to law abiding individuals who were brought to this country as young children and have graduated from our high schools. Others note the new policy will help those who have a relative in the family who is a citizen or here legally. This particularly will be welcomed by the American bishops, as it is a pro-family approach to immigration.

Efforts for comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform, including the Dream Act, are still necessary, and a new administration unfriendly to this type of reform can easily undo the new policy. In fact, some in Congress are already decrying what they call the president’s “backdoor amnesty” while others decry the permission to work as an assault on jobless Americans.

The new policy comes as resentment toward President Obama was growing in the Hispanic/Latino community. Homeland Security, for example, was sending an advisory “task force” around the country for hearing on the much reviled Secure Communities program. They weren’t going very well. I attended the one here in Chicago on Thursday-- unaware of the newly announced policy--where the horror stories were told of a program meant for harden criminals are instead catching small fries for marking left turns without signaling. After one woman testified her husband was being deported the very next day on one of those frivolous traffic violations, most of the audience--already upset by restriction of the number to be admitted to the hearing--got up and left. Some blocked traffic outside and were arrested. Some suspected the walk out was staged, but the emotions and the impatience with the president were very real. (Perhaps the new policy means relief for many and new beginning toward comprehensive reform.