Immigration expert looks at implications of deferred action


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Photo by Marielle Sumergido |

Joanne Gottesman, professor at Rutgers-Camden, speaks about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.


The Eagleton Program on Immigration and Democracy hosted an information session on Douglass campus yesterday, where 15 members of the University community gathered to discuss the intricacies of the recent immigration policy change.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, decided in June to make the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which gives children who crossed the United States border without documentation the possibility of prolonging their stay and receiving work authorization, said Joanne Gottesman, clinical associate professor of law at Rutgers-Camden.

She said President Barack Obama’s administration is supporting the policy in an attempt to realize his “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors,” a piece of legislation that would have given legal status to young immigrants.

Gottesman said she is eager to inform the public of the benefits and dangers that come along with the policy.

She said it is important for people who might be eligible to know they could be eligible because they could benefit from this program.

“But it’s also important for people to be aware of some red flags, because they are going to be bringing themselves to the attention of the federal government by applying, so that’s something you have to do carefully,” she said.

Applicants must be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and provide proof they were under the age of 16 upon entry, Gottesman said. An applicant with a felony conviction or without a high school diploma will not be considered under DACA.

Napolitano opened the window for eligible undocumented immigrants to apply for deferred deportation on Aug. 15. The government has already received about 72,000 applications, according to the Associated Press.

But DACA is not a law, Gottesman said. It is simply a memo the government could shred whenever it pleases.

“It wouldn’t even require a change in administration,” she said. “This administration could decide they don’t want to pursue the policy tomorrow, and there’s nothing really stopping them.”

Napolitano said the federal government is enforcing the laws, according to The New York Times.

“I am pleased the Supreme Court confirmed the state laws cannot dictate the federal government’s immigration enforcement policies or priorities,” Napolitano told The New York Times.

Eman Salah, a Newark College of Arts and Sciences senior, said she has lost her faith in government and doubts the policy will affect citizenship status.

“I don’t know how much government can really step in with that,” said Salah, who has friends that could benefit from these kinds of policies. “The government is so divided right now. I feel like it would be very hard for them to make a decision.”

She said legal advice could often be costly, which can affect low-income families. To alleviate the financial pressure, Gottesman offers a free clinic in the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice to help those in need.

Brian Oliveras, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said he wants there to be a sense of equality in the country.

“I grew up in Mexico City, seeing the richest men in the world, while at the same time having people living in slums,” said Oliveras, who now works for the Eagleton Institute of Politics.

He said the action does not affect those with a criminal record or without a high school diploma.

“These people want to contribute to the country, so I don’t see why it would be a problem,” Oliveras said.

Gottesman said she is disappointed with the policy’s limited effectiveness.

“This is not the DREAM Act,” she said. “The DREAM Act would give people a path to lawful status. It would give them a path to citizenship. This does neither. It’s not a path to anything.”


By Lisa Berkman

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