It’s only the first day, and we’ll have to wait for the numbers over a longer time horizon; but if these lines and these stories are any indication, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program inaugurated yesterday was a wild success.
Thousands of young illegal immigrants packed government centers across the nation Wednesday and sought help from volunteers on the first day they could apply to legally stay and work in the United States under a new federal initiative.
Under President Obama’s most ambitious immigration program — officially called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — illegal immigrants between the ages of 15 and 31 who were brought to America before the age of 16 and have no criminal record are able to apply to remain in the U.S. for at least two years and work legally [...]
“There was a lot of enthusiasm and hope,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, the executive director of the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center, a Chicago-based immigration advocacy organization that helped organize the event at Navy Pier.
I like to report on things that involve enthusiasm and hope for a change. This is a very good story. So far, my fears that the $465 application fee would dampen the enrollment has been unfounded; the immigrants are finding the money. (If you have a million immigrants take this up – and the Migration Policy Institute lists 1.7 million as eligible – that’s $465 million for the government. Does anyone think that the application process will cost that much?) I guess it’s true that you cannot put a price on two years of relief and certainty, more than these kids have had in their entire lives.
It’s also good to see Democratic officials working hard to help DREAM-eligible immigrants navigate the application process. Ultimately, that’s what politics should be about, improving people’s lives. And while this does not confer a path to citizenship, it does confer improvement. I’m sure there are political overtones to aiding the Hispanic community, considering their growth as a voting bloc. These kids are not eligible voters, however. And yet lots of Congressional Democrats are at the forefront of providing what amounts to social work for the DREAM-eligibles. I’ve seen more action aimed at getting these kids enrolled for the DACA program than I have seen enrolling, say, people with pre-existing conditions into the temporary high-risk pools in the Affordable Care Act.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Jan Brewer issued a vindictive executive order attempting to stop state compliance with the deferred action program. This ultimately is a toothless directive that will not stop anyone from anything; it just restates existing law in Arizona around granting driver’s licenses and other benefits to non-citizens. But it shows the cruelty that has characterized a substantial segment of the Republican Party against a group of 1 million or more kids that know no other country than the US.
All you have to do is to look at these pictures to understand the importance of this program, which offers a glimmer of hope and two years of relief to these people. More from The Washington Post and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Here’s a representative story:
Because his well-intentioned mother smuggled him into the United States at the age of 2 on a commercial airliner, (Luis) Avila has been forced to forgo the sort of sacrosanct privileges that come with the coming of age: He can’t drive to the movies on a Friday night because he can’t get a license; he can’t flip burgers because he can’t legally work; he can’t open a bank account because he doesn’t have a valid form of U.S. identification.
The only piece of identification he does have is a card issued to him by the Mexican consulate. It has the name of his birthplace, Chilpancingo, Guerrero. It’s a town he can barely pronounce, much less spell [...]
“I’ve been waiting years for this. I can hardly believe it,” said an emotional Avila, whose first revelation that he was different from the rest of his class came in the fourth grade, when he was asked to write down the name of his hometown and he couldn’t answer.
This is enormous in the Hispanic press as well. A good day all around. I wish it had come sooner and these kids were on their second work permits already.