November 24, 2014

Cornellians Examine Implications of Obama Immigration Order

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By DAVE JANECZEK

Cornellians say executive orders issued by President Barack Obama Thursday to expand protections for undocumented immigrants from deportation will likely not affect students or admissions directly, but added that the action will free many from the worry that comes with having family members who lack legal status.

The program will give four million undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria a new legal status that would require them to pay taxes and “defer their deportations and allow them to work legally,” according to The New York Times.

A.T. Miller, associate vice provost for academic diversity, said most undocumented students at the University are in the country legally under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Action for Childhood Arrivals Policy.

According to Prof. Stephen Yale-Loehr ’77 J.D. ’81, law, DACA — which was expanded by Obama’s executive orders on Tuesday — generally encompasses students coming to Cornell to study.

“DACA said that if you came to the United States before the age of 16, you arrived before 2007 and you’re under the age of 31, you could apply for a two year work permit and a two year reprieve from deportation,” Yale-Loehr said.

According to Miller, most of the benefit to students will likely come from the effect on relatives of students who may lack legal status.

“It’s difficult to focus on school when you’re worried about the legal status of your relatives,” Miller said. “While the executive order isn’t meant to be a solution, it is a step that increases the feeling of security for undocumented students, and for students with family members who are undocumented.”

Miller and Yale-Loehr cautioned, however, that the executive orders were not a comprehensive solution to immigration issues that many have sought and will not have a dramatic effect on applications or admissions to Cornell because they do not impact the federal financial aid policy.

“This is not amnesty; all it does is give [undocumented immigrants] a three-year reprieve from deportation and a three-year work permit,” Yale-Loehr said. “The next president could take it away. It is far short of amnesty.”

Under the new policy, there is no age limit to apply to the program, according to the White House. Additionally, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before Jan. 1, 2010, are eligible for DACA and work permits and deportation protection will cover periods of three years instead of two.

“An estimated 500,000 people across the United States will now qualify for this kind of relief who were not eligible before,” Yale-Loehr said.

The executive orders also included an expansion of Optional Practical Training, a program that normally allows legal immigrants on F-1 student visas to work in the United States for a period of up to one year or up to 27 months if they are working in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics field, according to Yale-Loehr.

The changes introduced aim to “expand and extend” the current program and foster a closer tie between the school and the student after graduation, according to the White House.

Yale-Loehr said that the nature of the executive order initiating the policy shift means that the changes to the program will not be immediate.

“The President simply ordered the immigration agency to figure out how to do it, and the agency is putting together a task force now so it’ll be several months before they can actually roll it out,” Yale-Loehr said.

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