The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, implemented by the Obama administration almost a year ago, protects undocumented persons, ages 15-30, from deportation and grants them workers permits that are active for two years. In a political climate, where party lines also act as borders, this initiative by the Obama administration seems like the progressive politics necessary that will guide our nation into a direction of open-mindedness. Yet, Deferred Action does not serve its stakeholders sufficiently, as states moved by their conservative politics deny undocumented immigrants essential privileges that are necessary in becoming contributing members of society. In Arizona and Nebraska, those protected under Deferred Action are barred from paying in-state tuition and from acquiring a state driver’s license. Hence, undocumented students are charged an expensive tuition that is overwhelming for those who are working entry level positions. Also, in states where these undocumented immigrants are not allowed to obtain a driver’s license, Deferred Action recipients cannot easily commute, as this affects their ability to go to work and school.
As if being denied the autonomy and independent transportation that comes with having a driver’s license was not already a difficult circumstance to be in, undocumented immigrants are also facing this nation’s disparaging job market. Thus, undocumented persons are in a doubly unfortunate circumstance. For the undocumented student, facing a restricting job market and having no driver’s license is a grave concern: “They don’t have previous work experience, and they are facing a high national unemployment rate for young people. The jobless rate for people ages 16-19 is 23.7 percent, and for those 20-24, its 12.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July data.” Undocumented immigrants who have an obvious legal barrier that prohibits their participation in the “free market” are also joining a league of disheartened young people who are financially struck by the lack of job opportunities and heightened selectively within the job market. We can see that undocumented individuals who are young students, barely starting their lives and careers as independent individuals, are doubly oppressed, not only by their lack of documentation but also by the economic state of our nation.
Ultimately, Deferred Action is failing to protect and provide for undocumented immigrants who contribute to our society because of the power struggle between the Federal Government and states’ rights. We can see that Arizona and Nebraska are attempting to assert their own political power over the federal government, as each state tries to prove that their individualism is more legitimate than the federal law. When states’ enforce their own laws and propagate their own political sentiments over the Federal Government’s initiatives, undocumented immigrants are deported in another sense, in a way that expels them from actively participating in society. It is troubling to see that the freedom between the federal government and states is abused and utilized as a means for political vindictiveness. This autonomy should be reserved for actual circumstances in which the legislation of either branch is hindered. Deferred Action has good intentions. Yet it is not a full-proof plan that will defend and provide for undocumented immigrants because of state rights that allow legislation that undermines Federal Government initiatives to be formed.