Smoother Access to Higher Education Within Illegal Immigrants' Reach

By Catherine Groux
Posted September 13, 2012 12:00 PM

A new program could help young immigrants earn a college degree.
A new program could help young immigrants earn a college degree.
In June, President Barack Obama announced that he would suspend the deportation of young illegal immigrants if they met certain requirements and allow them to apply for work permits, CNN reports. While the policy change stirred up controversy, Obama said that illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were children are often talented, hard working and, in his opinion, essentially Americans.

"This is not amnesty," he said during an address. "This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure."

Now, only about a month after the new policy went into effect, more than 72,000 illegal immigrants have applied for the two-year reprieve, according to The New York Times. Officials estimate that at this rate, about 200,000 immigrants could submit their application for the program before the November election.

While some observers feared individuals would be wary of stepping forward and stating they are illegal immigrants, the policy was praised by many youths across the country, including 25-year-old Nidia Ramirez. The California college student was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child and has since advocated for immigration reform, the North County Times states.

"I feel very excited," Ramirez said of Obama's policy. "I think it's a step in the right direction for those who have been fighting for a long time."

While many individuals have applied for the reprieve, statistics show thousands more have yet to take advantage of it. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, up to 1.4 million children and young adults currently living in the U.S. could benefit from this policy, including 700,000 people who are now enrolled in school or have graduated from high school.

In his speech, Obama suggested this temporary solution was necessary if Congress would not pass the DREAM Act, Fox News reports. Under this bipartisan legislation, illegal immigrants would enter a six-year path to citizenship by earning a college degree or completing two years in the military.

As the 2012 election quickly approaches, many voters are waiting for Republican candidate Mitt Romney to announce his thoughts on Obama's new policy, the Times reports. While he has not stated whether he would continue the program if elected, he said he would support a more permanent solution for the immigration issue. Additionally, Romney has stated that he would veto the latest edition of the DREAM Act, according to USA Today.

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