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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Today marks the first anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security's implementation of deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), a directive that was built on a number steps taken by DHS during President Obama's administration to ensure that we are using our immigration enforcement resources most effectively, based on common sense priorities that focus first on those that pose threats to our communities.

Following a series of steps to make the immigration system more effective by focusing our enforcement resources in a common sense way, in June 2012, I announced an initiative that allows young people who were brought to the United States as children, who do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and who meet several key criteria to be considered for deferred action and work authorization. Just 60 days later, on August 15th, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting DACA requests.

Because of the action we have undertaken through the DACA process, thousands of hardworking young people who are American in every way but a piece of paper now have the ability to continue their educations and contribute to their communities. In just its first year, over 500,000 individuals have requested Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and after a thorough review of each of those cases, including a background check, 430,000 requests have already been approved, with others still under review. These young people came to our country as children and many of these young people have already contributed significantly to our country.

Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner but they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified in DACA cases. And, by removing the threat of deportation for people brought to the country as children, we have been able to continue to focus our enforcement efforts on serious criminals, public safety threats, and those who pose a danger to national security. 

DACA is not a long term solution to the broader challenges presented by our nation's outdated immigration system. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would modernize our system, ensuring it was more fair, while also expanding the resources devoted to protecting our nation's borders and sanctioning employees who continue to hire illegal labor. The bill would require anyone who seeks a path to citizenship to get right with the law, pay taxes, learn English, and if those conditions are met would have the opportunity to become citizens only after those who are already in line. As a broad coalition of Americans, from business leaders, to labor groups, to law enforcement, to the evangelical community, have agreed, now is the time for this important reform. It's good for our economy, it corresponds to our values as a nation of immigrants, and it's the right thing to do.

I am hopeful that the House of Representatives will follow the leadership shown by a strong bipartisan majority of their Senate colleagues and work to fix our broken immigration system.  In the meantime, however, DACA will continue to serve as an important means by which young people brought here as children can remain in, and contribute to, this great country.

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