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Two students’ hope for a future

Published: September 2, 2011
Section: Opinions


Denis Lemos and Vinicius “Vinny” Quirino were working at the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM), a Boston-based immigrant student organization, when the news came in. The Obama administration officially announced that it will start to review 300,000 deportation cases on an individual basis, suspending deportations for undocumented immigrants who pose no threat to public safety or national security. The entire room erupted into ecstatic screams of relief, and I couldn’t help but be caught up in the monumental moment as well.

Denis and Vinny are both currently embroiled in their own individual deportation proceedings.

SIM has been working with the two to help argue for suspended deportation through petitions and letters to the Department of Homeland Security. Denis and Vinny are both students who were brought to this country by their parents before they were 18.

Both are pursuing engineering degrees at community colleges, working full-time jobs and paying three times the in-state tuition rates due to their undocumented status. Yet all that they have worked for, in spite of their undocumented status, seemed to be in vain when they learned that they were in deportation hearings.

To Denis and Vinny, the recent news is a glimmer of hope for their future as productive individuals in America, the place they’ve come to call home.

Obama and the Department of Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, have often pointed out that the administration is focused on deporting only high priority cases such as convicted felons.

On multiple occasions, Napolitano has noted that, with more than 300,000 current deportation cases awaiting review in our country, it does not make sense to waste taxpayer money on deporting low priority cases such as undocumented students who were brought to this country as minors. To the increasingly disillusioned Latino voters who supported Obama’s initial electoral victory, these statements and the lack of action to back them, are reasons many Latinos are looking to place their vote elsewhere in the upcoming election.

The administration’s recent move, however, may be a step toward not only calming the concerns of the immigrant community, but also toward a more sensible solution to the nation’s millions of undocumented immigrants.

The administration’s recent move will not grant immigrants any kind of amnesty. Rather, it puts into motion a policy of prosecutorial discretion. People like Denis, who would benefit from the long delayed DREAM Act—legislation that would give undocumented students a path to citizenship through college education or military service—are collateral damage in the more than one million deportations that have taken place since Obama took office.

To Denis and Vinny, the new policy is a refreshing change. When all the excitement in the SIM office finally subsided, a feeling of cautious optimism replaced the initial surge of unrestrained relief.

Denis and Vinny know that the news is far from a guarantee that they can continue their lives without fear of deportation, but it is a welcome respite. At this point, the new announcement is but another policy change the Obama administration has promised but failed to deliver. For Denis and Vinny, they will continue to fight for their chance to stay and trust that their optimism in the new policy is not misplaced.

The writer is a graduate of the class of 2011.