It is presidential political season again, and this time the candidates actually are talking about immigration law as November approaches.

If you remember 2004 and 2008, there was a diminishing amount of debate about immigration reform as Election Day came closer. Things look like they may be different this year. Why? Two words: deferred action. Although this program does not provide a direct fix for dairy, the political debate that has erupted in its wake is very relevant to the agricultural labor crisis.

On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced that deferred action would be made available to an estimated 1.5 million “Dreamers.” These are young people who are undocumented and were brought to the U.S. by their parents, usually at a very young age. Most look, sound and act “American” but typically had no choice in their parent’s decision to settle in the U.S. If granted, deferred action will allow a Dreamer to live and work in the U.S. even though he or she could otherwise be deported. Deferred action is temporary and does not confer legal status or citizenship.

In a recent blog post, lawyer and Fox News host Greta Van Susteren stated that any lawyer who advised a client to sign up for the program was committing legal malpractice.

Susteren concludes that the program is too risky because of its temporary nature. She speculates that it is nothing more than an invitation to deportation when a future president inevitably takes it away. Susteren’s bottom line: Do not trust the government.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of those immigration attorneys who Susteren thinks is committing malpractice. Although there are risks to the program, I am advising most of my clients who qualify to apply. My reasoning is simple: What do they really have to lose?

Susteren completely ignores this part of the equation. Many of these young people are smart and industrious, but they see their youth and futures slipping away because they are undocumented and cannot enter the U.S. workforce in a way that is commensurate with their abilities. The Dream Act, which would grant these young people a path to citizenship, has been proposed since 2001 and has failed to pass Congress even though it has enjoyed majority support in many votes. Is 11 years enough? How much longer should we ask these kids to wait?

I do agree with one of Susteren’s points: Do not trust the government. In particular, do not trust politicians, many of whom have repeatedly turned a blind eye to this issue. In my opinion, young people should apply for the program and then scream like hell if any politician dares to try and take it away. It seems like that is the only way anything gets done in today’s political environment.

So what is really going on with Susteren’s criticism? Politics, pure and simple, and both political parties are guilty. Mitt Romney, a moderate Republican with no significant history on immigration, went hard to right on the issue in the primaries in order to attack Rick Perry. Now that Romney is the nominee, Obama has announced deferred action just months before the election to shore up his support with Latinos and exploit Romney’s extreme position on the issue. Romney, by his own admission, needs at least 38% of the Latino vote to win the election, so he has to get out of the box that Obama has put him in. The Romney counter-punch: Deferred action is either a cynical, reckless political action or cleverly disguised plot to deport Latino kids. Enter Greta Van Susteren.

Sorry for the cynicism, but haven’t we seen this dance too many times now? Dairy needs to pay very close attention to the political games being played on this issue, because they will be repeated the next time an immigration solution for agriculture is proposed. Susteran says do not trust the government. I say, do not trust the politicians.

Written by: Erich Straub, EOIR Liaison Committee

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