Co-authored by Emily Butera, Senior Program Officer, Detention & Asylum and Katharina Obser, Program Specialist, Advocacy
As is sometimes the case with good news, the announcement about deferred action for eligible DREAM students caught us pleasantly by surprise. The Women's Refugee Commission's Detention and Asylum staff had just logged into their computers for what we thought might be a quiet day when the emails began streaming in. Major White House announcement about DREAM! Call with Department of Homeland Security officials happening right now!
As we learned more, it was almost hard to believe. The administration will grant temporary relief from deportation for undocumented youth who meet the established criteria and will refrain from placing other eligible young people, often referred to as DREAMers, into removal proceedings. Students who are eligible for deferred action can apply for work authorization and will be able to apply for renewal of the status every two years. In essence, the administration sent a clear message that these students will not be penalized for the decisions of those who brought them to the U.S. or for the failure of Congress to pass the DREAM Act.
Does today's announcement mean the battle is won? Not yet. It does not provide a path to citizenship, and some students will not qualify. There are still many immigrants who are already contributing to our economy and our great country who also need protections.
But today's news is a reason to celebrate. It represents a major step forward in the fight for immigrant rights. And it is a tangible acknowledgement by the Obama administration of the immeasurable past contributions and future economic and social potential of those who have come to the United States through unlawful channels because insufficient legal channels exist. So while the work to create a more just and humane immigration system continues, this is a moment to say thank you. Thank you to the Obama administration for taking this important step. Thank you to the advocates and organizers who worked tirelessly to achieve this change. And most importantly, thank you to the DREAM students whose courage, commitment and determination led to this victory.
This past week, the Director of our Detention and Asylum program, Michelle Brané, was awarded the Daniel Levy Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Immigration Law, which honors her dedication to improving and protecting the lives and rights of immigrants. In accepting the award, she noted how all too often the countless challenges the immigrant rights community faces lead to reflections on policy failures rather than celebration of hard-earned victories.
Today's announcement reminds us: progress is being made. It may feel too slow, and it may face more setbacks than we can count. But let's allow the tremendous success of the DREAMers and their allies to be a moment to pause, reflect and draw inspiration for the future.