The long-debated Dream Act has all but become practice now that President Obama announced on Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security would cease targeting for deportation students in this country brought to the U.S. as children by their parents. Under the new DHS policy for immigration enforcement, eligible students will be deemed “low priority” immigrants. This means that, in the future, these individuals are unlikely to face deportation proceedings. It also means that the undocumented migrant students already in the DHS system will have their cases individually reviewed and may be eligible for legal U.S. residency.
For some, including those migrants whose imminent deportations may have been countermanded, this announcement comes as a welcome and rare bit of good news in a largely anti-immigrant political landscape. However, there are others who argue that the move is, at best, too little too late and, at worst, an example of pandering to a key demographic in the President’s constituency.
In a week in which the Obama-enforced Secure Communities Program is under fire by many U.S. officials who argue that they have been misled about the initiative and that it is a violation of their state’s rights, some argue that the President is simply seeking a little good will from pro-immigrant constituencies. Many of these individuals see Obama’s most recent efforts as merely “cosmetic” and emblematic of the administration’s larger avoidance of permanent solutions to the nation’s “broken” immigration system.
Here in Southern Arizona in particular, President Obama may have reason to worry that his administration’s immigration policies may be turning off voters en masse. A recent Gallup poll found that only 40 percent of voters approve of the President’s job performance, a near record low for him. In addition, the President’s approval by Hispanic voters has dipped under 50 percent this summer for the first time in his tenure. The large majority of the votes Obama received in Arizona in 2008 came from the heavily Latino Southern region of the state. As polls show he is rapidly losing favor among these voters, Obama’s efforts to instate the Dream Act may be indicative of a larger move to gain back his Latino constituency.
Still, if President Obama expected unqualified applause from the pro-immigrant community after his announcement this week, he was likely disappointed. As a New York youth-led organization supporting equality in education wrote, following the announcement, “We warn President Obama that if he expects our support in 2012 we want more than temporary fixes to his broken programs.”