Last week featured a rare moment of encouragement in the nation's often tiresome and vindictive immigration debate: Thousands of young undocumented immigrants began applying for temporary permits that will allow them to live and work legally in the United States. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the result of a policy shift unveiled by the Obama administration in June, is a small but significant step that could help more than a million immigrant students and military veterans who were brought to this country illegally as children and who have lived in fear of deportation since.
But leave it to anti-immigration zealots to find a cloud in this silver lining. For them, any measure of relief for illegal immigrants is too much. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), for instance, used the week's events to suggest that the program amounted to amnesty and would cost taxpayers millions of dollars to implement.
Neither claim is true.
The program doesn't provide a path to legalization for those young immigrants, as the Dream Act, which failed to win approval in Congress, would have done. Instead, it grants a two-year respite from deportation for those who meet various conditions. They must be under 31, have come to the United States before they turned 16 and lived here for at least five years, and have no serious criminal convictions. They also must be enrolled in school, or have graduated from high school or served in theU.S. military. If their applications are granted, they will not be deported for two years, but they do not receive citizenship.