In a letter to a group of senators supporting immigration reform, Napolitano wrote: “From a law enforcement and public safety perspective, DHS enforcement resources must continue to be focused on our highest priorities. Doing otherwise hinders our public safety mission — clogging immigration court dockets and diverting DHS enforcement resources away from individuals who pose a threat to public safety.”
This comes as a relief for thousands of undocumented immigrants with clean criminal records who are facing immigration court hearings, including those who immigrated as children with their families and those with family ties in the U.S. – including those in same-sex unions who do not receive federal benefits under the Defense of Marriage Act. In San Francisco, a pending case involving the deportation of Alex Benshimol, a Venezuelan married to another man in the U.S., was dropped early this week. Another high-profile case involving Anthony Makk, an Australian native under threat of being deported and separated from his partner, a U.S. citizen with AIDS, would likely also be granted leniency under the new Homeland Security policy.
The move would also have a significant impact on the growing movement to pass the DREAM Act, the federal bill that would carve a path to citizenship for undocumented students who immigrated as children with their families. Last month, Need to Know spoke with Ju Hong, an undocumented student at U.C. Berkeley and activist who was arrested with a group of students in July during a rally. Authorities released Hong and the other six students arrested that day, but he received a notice for an impending immigration hearing.
“Although I am released, it doesn’t mean I am safe right now,” Hong told Need to Know last month. But under the Obama administration’s new policy, students like Hong would now most likely be protected from the threat of deportation.
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