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A compassionate and sensible step on immigration

Posted: August 25, 2011 - 9:35pm

The following editorial appeared in the Sacramento Bee:

It’s not amnesty, back-door or otherwise. It’s just a little more sanity in our broken immigration system.

The Obama administration has announced that it will suspend deportation proceedings against thousands of illegal immigrants who aren’t a danger to public safety, including those who came to America as young children and have graduated from high school and gone on to college or into the military.

Other “low-priority” cases likely to benefit under the new policy are veterans and spouses of veterans, caregivers for a seriously ill relative or for a person with a mental or physical disability and those with family members who are citizens.

It only makes sense to target limited manpower and resources to deporting those who are violent criminals and drug smugglers, or who pose a national security threat.

This is not a blanket policy; immigration officials will review, case by case, nearly 300,000 people now in the deportation pipeline to distinguish those who may qualify for relief from those who should be expelled as soon as possible. It also doesn’t automatically grant citizenship, though many could eventually apply for legal status.

Predictably, zealous activists against illegal immigration, along with elected officials in their thrall, are railing against this change. They are still not facing the reality that if they got their way, we would have to figure out how to find and deport more than 10 million people.

With this new policy, President Barack Obama is doing administratively much of what Congress hasn’t had the courage and common sense to do legislatively by passing the DREAM Act, a bill to give relief to college students who are illegal immigrants.

“Young people who arrived here at an early age and either serve in the military or are in good academic standing should not be removed from the country and separated from their families,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who urged Obama to make the change, said in a statement. “Instead, they should be allowed to reach their full potential as productive American citizens.” She has introduced 14 private bills in the past two sessions of Congress to block deportations of such students – their only recourse until now.

This new policy is a necessary step that upholds our tradition as an immigrant nation, but it is not a long-term solution. We still have to get serious about comprehensive reform to create a system that is fair and sensible.

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