Prior to President Barack Obama’s re-election many illegal immigrants were justifiably hesitant to apply for a program that could allow them to stay and work temporarily in the United States without the threat of deportation. After all, if Gov. Mitt Romney had taken over the White House, many believed he would have terminated the program altogether, potentially leaving those who had applied vulnerable to deportation. Obama’s re-election ensures the program will continue for at least four more years.
Many undocumented immigrants, thrilled by the original announcement, now see even more reason to apply. Obama’s victory with the overwhelming support of Latino voters has pushed many Republicans to once again line up behind comprehensive immigration reform that include a path for millions of illegal immigrants to legalize their status and eventually become U.S. citizens. Applying for deferred action offers not only a chance to stay and work but also a leg up on gaining citizenship under the growing likelihood that Congress will finally pass some other broader legalization program.
Obama announced the deferred action program on June 15 as part of an election-year bid to shore up support from Latino voters disappointed by his failure to get comprehensive immigration reform passed during his first term and upset by the record number of immigrants deported under his administration.
Romney’s tough stance on illegal immigration during the campaign made many young undocumented immigrants concerned for good reason given that the government requires detailed information as part of the application which could be turned over to federal immigration-enforcement officials if Romney were elected, possibly leading to their deportation.
That fear was likely unfounded as Romney never said he would deport undocumented immigrants who received deferred action through the program. If he had tried, he likely would have faced dire political backlash and already backlogged immigration courts would have been flooded with thousands of new cases. Still, Romney’s tough rhetoric during the campaign made many illegal immigrants hesitant to apply. During the campaign, Romney said he opposed the Dream Act and opposed granting “amnesty” to illegal immigrants. During one of the primary debates he said that illegal immigrants should “self-deport” and that tough Arizona-style immigration laws should be a model for the country. Meanwhile, the number of people applying for deferred action is picking up. Those accepted for deferred action would have an advantage on any legalization program passed by Congress.
Mr. Obama said this week that he wanted to kickstart a comprehensive immigration bill soon after his inauguration. This would include a permanent path to citizenship for young immigrants who are eligible for the temporary reprieves.
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