Education and immigrant advocacy organizations are calling on President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to stop the deportation of young undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the DREAM Act.

The act, which was reintroduced in Congress this week, would grant unauthorized immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 conditional legal-resident status for a period of six years, after which they would be eligible to become legal permanent residents, if they obtain at least an associate-level college degree or serve in the two years in the military.

NAFSA, an international education association (formerly the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers) urged the president this week to use his executive authority to direct the Department of Homeland Security to implement a deferred-action policy. NAFSA refers to a letter 22 Senators sent last month calling on Obama to implement “deferred action” to prevent the deportation of young people eligible for the DREAM Act.

The letter states:

You are the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and are, of course, obligated to enforce the law.  However, the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in light of law enforcement priorities and limited resources has a long history in this nation and is fully consistent with our strong interest in the rule of law.  Your Administration has a strong record of enforcement, having deported a record number of undocumented immigrants last year.  At the same time, you have granted deferred action to a small number of DREAM Act students on a case-by-case basis, just as the Bush Administration did.

We would support a grant of deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements necessary to be eligible for cancellation of removal or a stay of removal under the DREAM Act. (read the full letter below.)

The letter indicates that the Department of Homeland and Security does not have a process to record and track potential DREAM Act cases and lays out several steps the administration could better handle DREAM Act cases one case at a time.

A recent memo (pdf.) issued in April by a group of immigration attorneys, including a former Immigration and Naturalization general counsel and a former executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says the executive branch, through the Secretary of Homeland Security, can decide not to prosecute a case by granting “deferred action” to an immigrant awaiting deportation.

Several immigrant advocacy organizations also said this week in the aftermath of president Obama’s immigration speech it is time to use his executive authority to implement deferred action as he calls on Congress to implement more comprehensive reforms.

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