Immigrants Benefit From White House Initiative

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Advocates Urge Obama to Expand The Program That Foes Say Encourages Illegal Arrivals.

Mario Lio

For two years, UC Berkeley-educated civil engineer Mario Lio had to work as a math tutor and restaurant worker to make ends meet. Today, he is a project engineer for a Bay Area firm that helped build the new Levi’s Stadium for the San Francisco 49ers.

The reason, he says, is DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—an Obama administration initiative that marked its second anniversary last month. When Mr. Lio, 25 years old, qualified for the program, he says, “So many doors opened overnight.”

Through the program, he received a Social Security number and driver’s license. He then got a job in his field of study. “I became a new person in some ways,” says Mr. Lio, who arrived in the U.S. from Peru when he was 12 and remained here illegally.

DACA grants undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit if they can prove they arrived before age 16, have no criminal history and meet other criteria. Nearly 700,000 people have enrolled since the program began.

Opponents of DACA say it amounts to a de facto temporary legalization program that undermines the deterrent force of U.S. immigration law. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which calls for tougher laws to combat illegal immigration, describes the program as “green-card lite.”

The program, which is renewable every two years for participants, is one of the most significant immigration actions taken by the Obama administration. The other has been overseeing the deportation of some two million immigrants, most of them here illegally.

As the first DACA enrollees have begun applying to renew their status, immigrant advocates are urging Mr. Obama to go “big and bold” and expand the program to include many of the 10 million or so undocumented immigrants who currently don’t qualify for the program.

In particular, they want relief extended to the parents of DACA recipients, U.S. citizens and legal residents.

DACA foes say its extension to a wider group by the president would be an abuse of executive authority.

In a July letter to the president, 24 Republican state senators and representatives from Texas urged Mr. Obama to “suspend your efforts to issue new Executive Orders that weaken enforcement of our immigration laws” and said DACA “has sent the regrettable message that illegal immigration will not be punished in the United States.”

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