Nadia Habib is a star psychology student in her junior year at Stony Brook University in New York. She has no criminal record. Her Bangladeshi father, a Queens cab driver who's lived in New York for 20 years, has a green card, and her three siblings are all U.S. citizens. But because Habib was 20 months old when her mother brought her to the U.S., both she and her mother are scheduled to be deported tomorrow.
Habib didn't learn she was undocumented until she was in high school, and her mother has been seeking asylum for the two of them since then. Earlier this month, their final appeal was denied. "We have to be there with 50 pound of baggage each and have our passports and be ready to leave or they can detain us," Habib told a CBS affiliate in New York last week. She told the New York Daily News:
"If we have to leave I'd be leaving my three siblings, my father and my entire life," Habib said. "It would mean losing a lot, everything basically, of what we have."
"I don't even know if I were to go back what I would do—I can't even speak the language," said Habib. "My mom's just scared."
Habib's friends at Stony Brook, Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY.), and the New York State Youth Leadership Council (a student group that fights for undocumented youth) have all appealed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Habib's behalf. Yet under President Barack Obama's softer deportation policy, Habib and her mother shouldn't need an army of sympathizers to stay in the U.S. Immigration officials now have additional "prosecutorial discretion" in determining who to deport. That phrase means ICE officials will not be punished for deprioritizing undocumented workers who have family in the U.S., hold down good jobs, or are in school, but are technically in violation of U.S. immigration law. From the White House blog:
Today, [DHS] announced that they are strengthening their ability to target criminals even further by making sure they are not focusing our resources on deporting people who are low priorities for deportation. This includes individuals such as young people who were brought to this country as small children, and who know no other home. It also includes individuals such as military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel. It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low-priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes.
So DHS, along with the Department of Justice, will be reviewing the current deportation caseload to clear out low-priority cases on a case-by-case basis and make more room to deport people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk. And they will take steps to keep low-priority cases out of the deportation pipeline in the first place. They will be applying common sense guidelines to make these decisions, like a person's ties and contributions to the community, their family relationships and military service record. In the end, this means more immigration enforcement pressure where it counts the most, and less where it doesn't – that's the smartest way to follow the law while we stay focused on working with the Congress to fix it.
By Napolitano's own standards, Nadia Habib and her mother, Nazmin Habib, perfectly fit the profile of immigrants who shouldn't be deported. To a lesser degree, so does Paula Godoy, a Guatemalan woman who was scheduled to be deported on her American-born kids' first day of school after she was stopped while driving with a suspended license. After spending her life savings on legal advice and bidding goodbye to her kids, Godoy was granted a six month stay the day she was supposed to be deported. Habib, who is scheduled to meet with ICE officials about her appeal tomorrow, could get the same "lucky break." But that's hardly the outcome promised by Obama's softer deportation policy.