Last month, Governor Brown signed a bill that would allow undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition to apply for and receive private scholarships for higher education. And now President Obama seems to be moving to ease immigration rules. Obama directed federal agencies to prioritize deporting undocumented immigrants who “pose a threat to public safety and national security”. Essentially undocumented immigrants that have a criminal record. That is giving many Sacramento undocumented residents a big relief.
Undocumented students attending Sacramento University or Sacramento City College feel a little safer. They don’t have to worry about being ambushed in the middle of class, or having their life disrupted by being sent back to a country they don’t even remember. Similarly, Sacramento residents who pay taxes and obey the law also can breathe easier. This is definitely a great first step for the national government. Without the threat of deportation, millions of law abiding and taxpaying immigrants can come out of the shadows of society and live without fear. We are on the way to becoming an inclusive melting pot country once again.
However, this new policy from Washington isn’t the end. Obama’s direction doesn’t come from Congress and so it doesn’t have the same force as law. Furthermore, it is still unclear how long this review of people currently in line for deportation will take, or who in the end will actually be sent home and who can stay. Finally, if the Republicans are successful in taking back the White House in 2012 this directive could be almost immediately overturned. Even as Governor Brown is preparing to sign another Dream Act bill that would allow undocumented students apply for state scholarships for higher education; he is also working to try and limit how much money the state would really pay out in order to limit the cost of the bill. Currently, the bill would cost the state only an additional $13 million a year.
Undocumented immigrants don’t need promises from a president who may not even be there in a few years, and they don’t need penny pinching. Undocumented immigrants need to have a path towards citizenship. Sacramento immigrants need a legal framework that allows them to fully integrate into American society, that gives them a path out of fear, and that ensures their dignity as human beings is respected and enshrined in law. Governor Brown needs to hear from voters that immigrants deserve just as much state scholarship money as people born here. President Obama needs to hear from voters that immigrants need a permanent legal framework that gives them a path to citizenship and ends the uncertainty of the future.