.- The U.S. bishops' conference offered its praise for a June 15 presidential order halting the deportation of younger immigrants who would have been eligible for benefits of the proposed DREAM Act.
“This important action will provide legal protection, and work authorization, to a vulnerable group of immigrants who are deserving of remaining in our country and contributing their talents to our communities,” said migration chairman Archbishop Jose H. Gomez in a response to the announcement.
The young people affected by the executive order “are bright, energetic, and eager to pursue their education and reach their full potential,” he said. Up to 800,000 unauthorized immigrants, brought to the U.S. as children, may apply for a work permit and a deferral of possible deportation.
President Obama announced the plan at a press conference on June 15, saying the measure was “not amnesty,” nor “immunity” or “a path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants. He described the limit on some deportations as “the right thing to do” for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
His plan allows some unauthorized residents, who are under age 30 and arrived before age 16, to avoid deportation if they have been in the U.S. for five consecutive years. They must have a U.S. high school diploma, a GED, or a record of military service. Immigrants with a criminal background are excluded.
Qualifying residents can apply for a two-year work permit that can be renewed indefinitely. The president, however, noted that the move was “not a permanent fix” to the immigration question.
The move is seen as a partial fulfillment of the DREAM Act, a failed legislative bid to give citizenship to qualifying immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally during their youth. The U.S. bishops' conference supported the plan in 2010.
In its response to the executive order, the bishops' migration committee reaffirmed its support for the DREAM Act, saying Friday's action was “no substitute” for its enactment.
Archbishop Gomez urged “elected officials of both parties to take this opportunity to work together to enact this important law, which would give these youth a path to citizenship and a chance to become Americans.”
The U.S. bishops' conference also stressed the need for “bipartisan efforts to enact comprehensive and humane reform” to fix the country's “broken immigration system.”