The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and have no criminal history, the Associated Press reported today.
The policy change will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who faced deportation. According to the AP, the initiative will bypass Congress and will partially achieve the goals of the DREAM Act.
Speaking in the Rose Garden this afternoon, Obama explained the policy further:
"Let's be clear; this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship," he said. "If there's a young person who's grown up here and wants to contribute to society... that's the right thing to do."
The DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, was introduced nearly 10 years ago and has undergone several changes in hopes that the bill would pass Congress.
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In the new initiative, which was to be announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today, "certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization."
The policy is effective immediately. According to the New York Times, the new policy will stop deportations, but will not offer citizenship. It is being undertaken by executive order, and therefore does not require legislation.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney weighed in on the policy from New Hampshire according to Politico, saying in a statement:
"I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault of their own is an important matter on a long term basis so they know what their future will be in this country. I think the action that the president took today makes it more difficult to reach that longterm solution because an executive order is, of course, just a short term matter. It could be reversed by some president."
Romney added, "If I'm president we'll do our very best to have that kind of long term solution that provides certainty and clarity for the people who come into this country, through no fault of their own, by virtue of the action of their parents," also saying that he agreed with Sen. Marco Rubio's take on the policy.
A December poll by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 59 percent of Latinos disapproved of the president’s handling of deportations.
As of September 2011, the Obama administration had deported about 1.06 million undocumented immigrants. In his full eight years in office, George W. Bush deported 1.57 million undocumented immigrants.
On Thursday, the Washington Times reported on a secret draft policy that would allow agents of US Customs and Border Protection to catch and release low-priority undocumented immigrants rather than bring them in for processing and prosecution. The policy has not been signed off on, but was detailed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith.