When the Obama Administration announced on June 15 that it would stop deporting certain young undocumented immigrants the response was as polarized as most other issues in today’s political arena. From the left came a hopeful sigh of relief — this is not the DREAM Act, but it is a step in the right direction and one that finally begins to deliver on the president’s lofty promises to the immigrant community. From the right came condemnation — this was a power grab, an overreach, an illegal “backdoor amnesty.”
While the usual cast of characters acted out the latest scene of political drama cautious immigration advocates tried to weigh costs and benefits and provide the best advice possible to their clients. Speaking as immigration advocates we can say that one of the greatest challenges presented by the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process was the uncertainty of a controversial policy that existed only by decree — it represents no new law, regulation, or even executive order but simply an explicit policy choice and exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Complicating matters further, a presidential election is around the corner and a new man could be in the White House come January 2013.
In an interview with The Denver Post, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed this issue. But his comments did not exactly paint a clear portrait of how DACA would fare under a president Romney. On the one hand, Romney said:
“The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased…Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.”
On the other hand, these comments leave it unclear whether or not DACA applications would still be accepted once Romney took office. At a minimum it appears that Romney would not strip Deferred Action status from those already granted it. Conceivably he would also not direct his administration to deny otherwise meritorious applications (by the same “taking what you paid for” reasoning) pending at the time he takes office. But it remains open to interpretation whether or not his administration would continue accepting new DACA applications filed after he took office.
As the presidential debates unfold we may learn more about the fact of DACA in a Romney administration. And before long we will know if such a thing is a possibility at all.