SPLC Legal Director Says President’s Plan for Young Immigrants a Small, But Positive Step

Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the Obama administration’s announcement Friday to delay deporting young immigrants is a positive step, but against a backdrop of anti-immigrant sentiment and harsh laws in many states, much more remains to be done. “We applaud President Obama for taking a step in the right direction for young immigrants,” Bauer said. “While it is a small step and long overdue, it is an important step. We should recognize, however, the great harms that are still happening on the ground for millions of immigrants.”

Under the plan announced Friday by the Obama administration, undocumented immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16, are younger than 30, have been in the country at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military. Those who meet those marks also are eligible for work permits good for two years, with no limit on renewals.

The policy change partially achieves the goals of Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, known as the DREAM Act, a plan long sought but never enacted to establish a path toward citizenship for young immigrants.

“This small, positive step stands in direct contrast to the anti-immigrant laws being pushed through state legislatures, including Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina,” Bauer said.

“The problems these young people face in trying to stay in a country where they grew up highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to reforming our immigration system – something that cannot be addressed by state anti-immigrant laws.”