Move by Obama Administration positive sign, but impact still unclear
Miami, FL – Florida’s immigrants and advocates see yesterday’s announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that it would review the cases of 300,000 persons currently in removal proceedings, as a step in the right direction. However, they assert that much is still unknown about the criteria DHS will use in this process and caution the immigrant community that many deserving persons will still face deportation.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the relief this may bring to thousands of families facing separation,” says Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “This is a testament to the power of community organizing and the remarkable resilience of those most affected by this criminalizing system.”
Julio Calderon, an undocumented student leader of Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER), who is currently facing deportation, said, “I feel we may be given a second chance and all I hope for is that this promise is fulfilled. We simply don’t understand why Obama had to wait until there were 1 million deported to take this step, and we will continue fighting until all immigrants are not seen as criminals and are valued and respected.”
Immigrant rights advocates note that the administration in essence announced a process to implement ICE director John Morton’s June 2011 statement that ICE would begin exercising “prosecutorial discretion.”
“The devil is in the details and there is still much ambiguity as to how the process will be carried out,” says Jonathan Fried from WeCount! For example, the administration has not said that it will dismiss removal proceedings for all persons without criminal records. So far it seems it will only apply to those who meet other criteria such ashaving come here as a child, being a victim or witness of a crime, or having a serious health problem or disability.
“Moreover,” Fried added, “what will happen with those that were detained only for driving without a license in a state like Florida where it is considered a crime? Will they still be deported for having a criminal background?”
“We believe that the Obama administration can do even more,” says Rodriguez. “If the intention is to focus enforcement efforts on those who are adanger to our communities or who have committed violent crimes, the administration should broadly apply prosecutorial discretion. It also must end dragnet programs such as ‘Secure Communities’ that are creating this crisis in deportations.”