Nevada Illegal Alien Students Spared from Deportation

As the nation grapples with the difficult issue of revising its immigration laws, the Obama Administration has made some gestures toward a kinder, gentler immigration policy to help protect those aliens most vulnerable to the current system’s idiosyncrasies. Military families have quietly been given preferential treatment, and there is growing evidence that young people — mostly college students — who were brought into the country as illegal immigrants as children are being spared from deportation.

In a twist of irony, it is only when these “1.5 Generation” students reach the age of college or entering the workforce that their immigration problems begin. Because unlawful presence does not begin accruing until age 18, it is possible for young people to spend ten, twelve, or even more years in the country illegally but without facing deportation or any other immigration issues. Upon turning 18, however, the clock starts ticking. Once they have been in the country for over six months, leaving the country will involve an automatic bar of re-entry for three years.

The DREAM Act is federal legislation that has been pending for nearly ten years and which would grant special protections to young people brought into the country illegally at a young age by their families. As the New York Times reports, the Obama Administration’s efforts to loosen enforcement and deportation against these individuals has created a similar shield, although it is not an official policy or a law; the policy could change at any time based on political conditions.

The DREAM Act would give high school graduates who are planning to attend college, vocational school, military service, or begin major volunteer work an opportunity to self-petition for their immigration papers.  In many cases, these individuals are not able to pursue traditional family-based petitions, and they are often too young to have a means of immigrating based on a spousal petition.

At the same time that immigrant rights advocates are considering this legislation, many on the political Right are calling for changes to the Fourteenth Amendment. Passed after the American Civil War, the Amendment was meant to right the wrongs of slavery by declaring that all persons born or naturalized in the United States were U.S. citizens. This extended citizenship rights to former slaves and their descendants, who had previously had no legal rights.

Today, Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are calling for hearings to investigate rewriting the Fourteenth Amendment. They claim that “birthright citizenship” has created a perverse incentive for unauthorized immigrants, with parents coming to the United States with the express purpose of “dropping” a child on U.S. soil so it becomes a citizen. The repulsive term “anchor baby” is suddenly back in usage, despite the absurdity of the term given the realities of immigration regulations. Having a child here as a means of gaining immigration authorization is almost exclusively a 21-year scheme; surely most individuals could secure more direct access to a Green Card.

Nevada Latinos are rallying around Sen. Harry Reid, the current Majority Leader in the Senate. He faces opposition from right-wing Republican Sharron Angle but may be able to secure the Latino vote by showcasing his solid background of working for just immigration policies. Reid also has the power as Majority Leader to shape Congress’s legislative agenda. With Reid in the Senate, Nevada Latino voters can look forward to a serious conversation about comprehensive immigration reform rather than a politicking charade about dismantling the Fourteenth Amendment.

Call us in Reno or Las Vegas for a free consultation with our Nevada immigration lawyer.

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