The Obama administration issues guidelines tomorrow for a plan that will allow up to 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in America to live in the U.S. without fear of deportation for two years.
When announced by President Barack Obama in June, the policy was hailed as a major breakthrough by immigrant rights advocates. There are questions, though, about implementation and whether the program will lead to further pro-immigrant initiatives.
But U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago), a national leader on immigration issues and a past Obama critic on the topic, spoke confidently today about the implementation, stating that DHS “is going to be ready” August 15, the day the policy kicks off.
At a press conference held by the Illinois Council on Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) this morning, Gutierrez also argued that the plan sets in motion broader changes to immigration policy.
“It’s a temporary process that lasts two years,” Gutierrez said. “But once you begin the processes they are irreversible.” The rule change, Gutierrez argued, would empower an increasing number of undocumented immigrants to live without fear.
The elephant in the room is whether a potential Mitt Romney presidency would grind the process to the halt. The presumed Republican presidential nominee has not said whether he would reverse Obama’s executive order.
Obama issued the order (PDF) in June to enable undocumented immigrants who are under the age of 30 to register with DHS and, in turn, not face possible deportation for two years. They will also be eligible for a work permit and drivers license under the order.
Applicant requirements include possessing a high school diploma or equivalency, or honorable military discharge, and arriving in the country before they turned 16 years-old. The Migration Policy Institute finds that about 70,000 undocumented immigrants in Illinois meet these guidelines.
Gutierrez also announced an August 15 workshop to be held at Navy Pier that will help eligible applicants fill out the necessary paperwork. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are scheduled to join Gutierrez at the event.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a component of DHS in charge of program implementation, has not publicly set an application cost. The Associated Press reported yesterday that the application could be $465.
Asked if the application cost could be a deterrent, Gutierrez said, “I’m not worried about the money.”
He added that groups such as ICIRR that provide outreach to eligible applicants could work on sharing or defraying application costs. “This is going to be paid for by the immigration community,” Gutierrez said.
Lawrence Benito, executive director for ICIRR, added that there have been conversations with the Obama administration about a hardship waiver for some applicants.