"I understand why there's skepticism, but people are going to have to weigh facts. The fact is that this decision is about sound law enforcement practices, and that is the best way to make sure we implement it well." - Cecilia Muñoz.
At the White House on Monday, I sat a few yards away from the podium as Cecilia Muñoz, Director of White House Domestic Policy Council and Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, explained the genesis of the administration's decision to grant temporary relief in the form of deferred action to some undocumented immigrants, who for the purposes of this piece, I will refer to as DREAMers.
"This decision did not come from nowhere", Napolitano said. "We realized that administratively closing cases on an individual basis was not getting us closer to our law enforcement priorities." Said decision was actually made about four weeks ago. Last week the President noted that, "This was the right thing to do." But Muñoz captured the bottom line best when, on Monday, she told a small group of the nation's most savvy immigration policy advocates, "This administration's goal is to concentrate enforcement resources where they matter most.
(On the bad guys!)
Polls are starting to indicate that young folks who graduate from high school, who wish to serve in the military or attend college, and who were brought to this country--sin papeles--as children, i.e. through no fault of their own, are not considered by America to be the bad guys.
It is as important to know what this new policy is not, as it is to know what the policy is. The new directive is not amnesty. It is not a path to citizenship. It is not even a path to legalization. Those paths cut directly through the heart of Congress. That much has not changed.
The President's directive is a stop-gap measure to ease the burden placed on young people due to the inability of Congress to pass rational immigration enforcement policies. In two years, the relief currently being granted will have to be renewed. Though one hopes that by then, Congress will have acted in a manner befitting a central institution of American governance to ensure that our current system aligns with our current economic and demographic realities.
That said, there are a great deal of questions still to be asked (and answered), and some of us are working with the administration to ensure that the system being put in place over the next 60 (now 55) days is both efficient and effective. This is no easy undertaking as upward of over a million application submissions are anticipated. Yes, USCIS Director, Ali Mayorkas has his work cut out for him. But the truth of it is this: So do we!
Community leaders on the ground, and in states across the country, are the first line of protection and education when it comes to setting up an infrastructure to ensure appropriate implementation of the President's new directive. So while a certain level of skepticism may be healthy for a lot of reasons, there has to be a point when community leaders roll up their sleeves to help the administration get this one done right.
And when mistakes are made--in operationalizing anything on such a massive scale for the first time in history, mistakes inevitably will be made--the administration is going to need responsible people to appropriately point out such oversights. Throwing up hands and saying "nos engañaron otra vez!" will be in the best interests of nobody.
The President's directive was effective immediately. That was 5 days ago. If there are people you know who are currently in final order proceedings, but who you believe to be eligible for relief, DHS has set up a hotline (1-855-448-6903) for those people to be identified ASAP.
For those who have not been caught up in the system at this point, do not go to I.C.E. to turn yourself in; they wouldn't take you even if you did this. As I previously stated, the process has a 60 day implementation period and cannot handle applications before that period ends.
So again, don't let a fraudulent notario tell you otherwise!
The President's announcement of the policy shift was welcome, even if with a healthy amount of skepticism. But now the hard work begins. As Cecilia Muñoz put it, "Now we have to double down and implement this policy." The details of the implementation are being worked out as I write this. So don't fall for the trap when folks tell you they know exactly what is right or wrong about this policy.
The best thing you can do is to be both patient and cautious as this plays itself out. If you are a community leader, begin working with organizations like AILA, America's Voice, and UWD to ensure that you are able to arm your community members with hard facts as a defense against both fraud and fear.
This administration has moved steadily, if incrementally, over the past two years to overhaul a system that it admits to be broken, and which only Congress has the power to permanently fix. A lot of people are going to say a lot of things about this policy, but very few of them were in the room to talk this through directly with the administration.
I was. And I'm telling you that the President's latest move is a bold step in the direction of smart immigration enforcement. It's one that could become all the more important pending the upcoming SCOTUS decision re Arizona's SB1070. Still, the burden is on all of us to see that this one gets done right.
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