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The impact of President Obama's decision to use his executive authority to halt the deportation of undocumented children and provide them provisional legal status so they can pursue higher educations and other opportunities is becoming clear. Many young lives will be changed for the better and the nation will benefit from their productivity.
According to the Brookings Institution, in the year since the president's action about 435,000 young people have applied for "deferred action for childhood arrivals" in accordance with the executive order. That includes 3,069 requests in Connecticut. Nearly 75 percent of applications nationwide have been approved, about 70 percent in Connecticut. Only about 1 percent have been denied, the rest are in processing.
Information on the program was provided in response to a Brookings Institution Freedom of Information request. The Brookings Institution describes itself as a private nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and innovative policy ideas.
A better solution would be approval of The DREAM Act, which would give permanent documented status to children who arrived in this nation illegally as a result of their parent's actions. Unfortunately, conservative opposition to even sensible immigration policy stalled the legislation. Using his executive authority, President Obama has at least given these young people safe haven and allowed them the ability to further their education and to work. But legislation, perhaps as part of a comprehensive immigration bill, could provide certainty for these immigrant children. As things stand, a future president could undo the executive order.
Given the response, predictions that most of these young people would not come forward out of fear appear unfounded. Unfortunately, despite the strong response, many remain on the sidelines, only about half who are eligible have applied.
The executive order has sensible requirements:
• An applicant must have arrived in the United States before his or her 16th birthday.
• They must have resided in the United States since June 15, 2007.
• They must be younger than age 31 as of June 15, 2012 and at least 15 at time of application.
• They have to be currently enrolled in school, or graduated from high school, or be an honorably discharged veteran.
• Anyone convicted of a felony or of multiple serious misdemeanors is ineligible.
Republican opponents of the DREAM Act need to reconsider and get on the right side of history.