Friday, June 22, 2012

A compassionate first step

President Obama took a compassionate first step last week in acting when a do-nothing Congress has been unwilling to act. Using executive authority, he asked agencies charged with immigration oversight to focus their limited law enforcement resources on smugglers and killers but not on those who have lived productive lives since being brought across the border before the age of consent.

Young undocumented people who are pursuing their education or service in the military and have no legal troubles will be allowed to stay in the country on two-year renewable passes.

Fox News has given a microphone to anyone willing to proclaim that the president exceeded his authority and that a long-term solution to illegal immigration is needed. The U.S. does need a long-term solution, but the first step toward that solution should not be backward. To continue to do nothing is inhumane.

This may be a political move, but it also represents the best of politics. Young people brought to this country illegally, who have had no rights, who have been forced to live in the shadows, who have feared being noticed and then deported, can now do something as simple as reporting a crime or as difficult as showing what they can accomplish.

This change sets up an imperfect system through which an estimated 800,000 young men and women find themselves in a type of purgatory, between the hell of having an uncertain legal status and the heaven of a clear road to citizenship.

They will no longer find themselves thrown out of the only country they have ever known, and that is a step forward.

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