Since President Obama’s historic announcement last Friday, I have a received a flurry of inquiries from interested New Jersey residents (legal and otherwise) about the “new law.” First off, we should clarify that there is no “new law.” There is no DREAM ACT. The DREAM ACT (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) has actually been stuck down many times in Congress. Under the original DREAM ACT, individuals who entered the United States before the age of 16, graduated from high school, were present in the country for five years since their arrival, and who had clean records would be given a path to permanent residency. What President Obama ordered last Friday is not the same thing, although it undoubtedly is a tremendous effort to benefit largely the same class of individuals envisioned under the original DREAM legislation. President Obama’s announcement was actually a form of executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security to formally exercise “Prosecutorial Discretion” against “Young People Who are Low Enforcement Priorities.” In other words, provided that an applicant is able to demonstrate that he/she meets the criteria as lead out in the June 15, 2012 Memorandum, the government will grant that person “deferred status.” That is, DHS will not take steps to actively remove the individual, and if economic necessity can be shown, the individual will be permitted to work with authorization. However, the deferred status is not indefinite and will expire after two years, subject to renewal. It is important to understand that this is not a panacea. The grant of deferred action does not absolve or grant amnesty to the individual who is still technically “out of status.” It is, in short, a short-term fix. Nevertheless, we applaud President Obama for his courageous move on this very controversial, polarizing issue.
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