On June 15, President Barack Obama announced a change in the U.S. immigration policy that allows young undocumented immigrants to gain work permits and eliminates the possibility for deportation as long as they meet certain requirements.
The announcement for this deferred action has received both praise and criticism across the nation, and UCF students are on both sides of the fence as well.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction for immigration. Young illegal immigrants don’t have to worry about being deported for any reason,” said Michael Tuthill, a recent UCF graduate with a degree in political science. “There’s people here with family members who are here illegally, and I’m sure there are undocumented students as well. These people have been here almost their entire life. They’re basically Americans in every way except on paper. It’s good, it’s fair and it’s compassionate.”
While many students agree with Tuthill, there are also students who disagree with him.
“As president, [Obama] is head of the executive branch of the government and his job is to execute the laws that are given to him by Congress, the legislative branch of the government,” said Andrew Risavy, secretary of the UCF branch of the College Republicans. “So this executive order is a direct refusal to fulfill the duties that are part of his job as president. He’s simply doing it as a means to gain the Hispanic vote because he’s not polling well. It’s a desperate attempt to gain favor among the Hispanic community.”
Hispanic-American leaders have criticized Obama recently for his increase of deportations of illegal immigrants. In 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 396,906 undocumented immigrants, the largest number in its history.
Whether it’s desperation or an act of compassion, Obama’s announcement is fulfilling many goals of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, which was voted on in 2010 and killed in Congress by just a few votes.
If the DREAM Act were to be passed, it would mean that undocumented residents of the United States may have the opportunity to adjust their residency to permanent U.S. Citizenship. According to the website dreamactivist.org, anyone who entered the country before the age of 16, graduated from high school, has no criminal record and has been in the U.S. for at least five years would be eligible for citizenship.
Once eligibility has been met, the person would have six years to complete an associate’s degree or complete two years of military service before receiving citizenship.
“UCF is like any other state school; we don’t deny education to students,” said Nataly Chandia, director of the International Services Center at UCF. “Our department only works with students that are here on student visas, but there are some students that will be helped by this act.”
The requirements for deferred action are minimal. For an undocumented worker to qualify for deferred action, they must be under the age of 31, they must have been in the United States since they were 16 years old, they must have been in the United States for at least five years, they must not have been convicted of any felonies or significant misdemeanors and they must be in school, have a high school diploma or GED, or they must have been honorably discharged from the armed forces.
Deferred action is expected to affect up to 800,000 people, according to Obama’s administration. A small sliver of the estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, according to a 2011 Pew Hispanic Center survey.
If you have an idea for a story or are interested in writing for the Central Florida Future, contact the News Editors, Sarah Aslam and Vanessa Hornedo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.