Protesters marched in support of the DREAM Act in Washington in June 2009.
Beyond Borders, United States

Undocumented Students Facing Deportation Breathe Sigh Of Relief

September 9, 2010 By Alison Bowen

Protesters marched in support of the DREAM Act in Washington in June 2009.

As school starts up again, undocumented students around the country are concentrating on classes, not deportation proceedings.

In August, President Barack Obama’s administration pushed the emphasis of deportations away from students, saying the priority should not be people who came here illegally as children.

Undocumented students had lobbied for less pressure, staging sit-ins in politicians’ offices while showing less fear of protesting publicly despite their illegal status.

The New York Times reported that lawyers and immigrant advocates have noticed more students released from detention, many with deportations canceled.

“Our time is better spent on someone who is here unlawfully and is committing crimes in the neighborhood,” head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement John Morton told The Times.

In Houston, two sisters are no longer scared of being pulled out of classes for deportation proceedings.

Maria De Los Angeles Rodriguez, a student at the University of Houston, saw her deportation case dismissed last month. Although relieved, she and her sister, whose case was also dismissed, aren’t guaranteed a path to legal status, either.

“I’m not celebrating until I have papers,” she told the Houston Chronicle.

In Detroit, Ivan Nikolov is happy to be out of jail but awaiting the next step.

Nikolov, a Russian, found out he was undocumented when he asked his parents for a driver’s license at age 15.

After a raid on his home earlier this year, he was detained but recently released with an ankle monitor.

Advocates want more than canceled deportations, however. Student and immigration advocates have long pushed for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The legislation would allow students who entered the country as children to apply for legal status if they’ve been here five years, stayed out of criminal trouble and earned a high school diploma.

As of Aug. 4, the Dream Act had 39 co-sponsors in the Senate and 128 in the House of Representatives, according to the National Immigration Law Center.

Some propose including it in a larger comprehensive reform bill, but others want to push it as a stand-alone bill, saying it might be more palatable on its own as legislation that solely helps students meeting high standards.

Immigration officials said that fewer deportations of students, along with others who are in the process of applying to become legal residents, will help clear the system’s backlog.

For example, The Times reports that 17,000 deportation cases would be cleared if proceedings against immigrants likely to get legal status – like those married to United States citizens – were dismissed.

Officials want to focus instead on deporting criminals. Right now, deportations of criminals make up about half of all people removed from the country, The Washington Post reported.

Image: DreamActivist @ Flickr.

About Alison Bowen

Alison is a Missouri native and New York City freelance writer who has wanted to cover Latin America since studying Spanish in Central America. After moving to Brooklyn, her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Daily News, the Manhattan Times and Women’s eNews. She earned a master’s degree in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University. Her thesis focused on immigration policies after September 11, including counterterrorism measures, and their effects on the daily lives of immigrants in New York City.

1 Comment

cubana1960 says:

It makes better sense to hack away at this problem by passing legislation in discreet chunks. (We all witnessed what happened with the comprehensive mammoth 1500 page bill on Health Care “reform”. ) Legislation about immigrant children should take priority and be processed with urgency. The DREAM ACT is a win-win for all concerned.

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