Obama’s an ethical hero for creating a virtual Dream Act to give a million young Americans a path to a productive life, free from fear of deportation

 

Joanne ____ is one of America’s twelve million illegal immigrants. She was brought to the United States from Mexico as a baby by her parents.  She has a younger sister and brother who are American citizens because they were born in the United States. Her sister is in her last year at Harvard; her brother is in high school.

Five years ago alumni of the North Hollywood High School Class of 1957 decided, as part of their 50th reunion, to give a scholarship to a deserving senior. The school’s top choice was Joanne, and so she was awarded the scholarship. With that financial help and her own tenacity and hard work Joanne got her degree from the California State University, Northridge, a year ago. She’s spent much of the past year looking for work, but it’s been a hopeless case because she can’t produce the necessary papers.

Until yesterday, when President Obama announced that the United States would no longer consider deporting people like Joanne—people who had been brought here illegally as children, earned a high school diploma or GED, or served in the military, and had behaved well—had what we would call a record of good citizenship, were they citizens. Moreover the government will give them permits to work in the US for two years, renewable indefinitely.

In effect the President granted by executive action much of what the Dream Act—stymied only by an especially ugly Republican filibuster in the Senate—would have granted. His order falls short of the Dream Act because it doesn’t provide a path to citizenship, and because it can be overturned by any future President.

Mitt Romney has said he’d veto the Dream Act if he had a chance, but has so far avoiding saying that he’d overturn Obama’s order if elected. So Joanne can’t be sure what 2013 has in store for her—and a million like her—but for now she’s overjoyed. She can legally work for any employer who wants to hire her, and she can stop worrying about being snatched from her family and packed off to a country that’s utterly foreign to her.

The President’s act has been praised and condemned by the usual suspects. How it will play politically remains to be seen, but it transcends politics. Ethically it’s a home run. Not often does one person, even a President, get a chance to heal so many deserving lives.

 

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