Today, 104 Democratic Members of Congress released a letter to President Barack Obama thanking him for his decision to instruct the Department of Homeland Security to offer “Deferred Action” deportation relief to young immigrants raised in the U.S. who would qualify for the DREAM Act.
The Members of Congress wrote:
We recognize that there are those who will want to take the power of discretion away from you and the Executive branch. Like you, we agree that you are on solid moral, legal, and political ground and we will do everything within our power to defend your actions and the authority that you, like past Presidents, can exercise to set enforcement priorities and better protect our neighborhoods and our nation.
The letter was largely to show support for the new policy ahead of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s testimony in front of a largely hostile House Judiciary Committee.
Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee continue to believe that the President usurped Congressional authority with his announcement to not deport Dreamers and threatened to take DHS Sec. Napolitano to court over her June 15 memo.
Rep. Steve King was especially hostile.
Napolitano countered criticism regarding the deferred action program by noting that this was an evolution of a process that began in 2010 and reiterated that the announcement comes on the heels of various memos: the Meissner memo from Legacy INS, Julie Myers Memo, and the Morton Memo.
“I will not rescind it. It is right within the law.”
With regards to deferred action, Napolitano said that applications will be available on August 15 and added in her testimony that:
Individuals must also complete a biographic and biometric background check and not currently in removal proceedings or subject to a final order, must be 15 years or older to be considered for deferred action. Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be considered for deferred action under this initiative. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States or cannot prove that they have continuously resided within the United States for at least five years.
Napolitano reiterated that the program will not cost American taxpayers because there will be a fee for the process (in addition to the $380 for work authorization and $80 for biometrics). It is important to note that DHS has not yet decided the cost of the application.
When Rep. Quayle (R-Arizona) pressed her on the issue, Sec. Napolitano stated there may be a hardship fee-waiver process in some cases. However, she did clarify that there will not be a broad fee waiver process but that people may be granted waivers in exceptional circumstances.
The Congressional Research Service also released an analysis of the June 15 memo, which is available here. Among other important things, the CRS notes that Dreamers who are granted deferred action may be able to work but are not entitled to federally-funded public assistance, such as “retirement, welfare, health,disability, public or assisted housing, postsecondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit, or any other similar benefit for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual,household, or family eligibility unit by an agency of the United States or by appropriated funds of the United States.”
The DHS will put out additional guidelines on August 1.