COMMENTARY | Immigration has temporarily thrown the economy onto the political back burner after a decision that might finally stop the U.S. from criminalizing people who have broken no laws.
Borrowing a page from the still languishing Dream Act, President Barack Obama announced his administration will no longer deport undocumented aliens who can prove they were brought to America as children, according to the Washington Post.
Immigrants who can prove they lived in the country before they were 16 and are younger than 30 are eligible for a two-year deportation stay -- not full legal status -- and possibly a work visa provided they were brought here before turning 16, received a high school diploma or a general education degree and have had no major run-ins with the law. Though there is still a lot left to be done, this is a good step away from past policies that labeled people illegal because of circumstances beyond their control.
It was a political gamble by the president, but with nothing vote-altering enough he can do about the economy between now and November thanks to the European financial turmoil and the Republican-held House, he's hedging his bets on appealing to voters who are more concerned about human rights issues than economic ones. The anti-immigration vote won't be happy, but those who see merit in the president's action will be.
Upward of 800,000 illegal immigrants are eligible to have their deportation cases reviewed, and while they still don't get citizenship when the two years is up, it's a strong endorsement of the idea that people who were raised, schooled, and worked in this country shouldn't be ostracized because they were not born here. The good news comes as the president is in the midst of a political slump while his challenger gains steam.
Though Mitt Romney is doing nothing more than trying to pass off trickle-down economics as a bold new economy-saving fiscal theory he benefits from being the challenger to an incumbent president whose economic policies many Americans have become disillusioned with for various reasons.
Romney has pounced wherever he sees anything he can spin into a sign of President Obama's economic ineptitude, and with Friday's decision, the president struck back at the weak standing among Hispanic voters that the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee's opposition of the Dream Act and other pro-immigrant legislation have earned him.
President Obama is hoping this and other progressive moves to bolster gay and general human rights will rekindle the great standing with the youth and Hispanic vote he enjoyed in 2008 while he tries to convince older Americans his investments in the future will pay dividends if given more time.
Similarly, people who have put in the time to be Americans in every way but on a piece of paper-often our neighbors, coworkers, and even friends-should be allowed to stay long enough to see a return on their investment.