Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children will be able to obtain work permits and be safe from deportation under a new policy announced on Friday by the Obama administration.
His executive order, which Latinos and other immigrants have been pleading for since Congress turned aside an effort to pass similar legislation, cast into sharp relief the longstanding political differences on immigration, one of the most divisive and delicate issues being debated as the November elections approach.
Republicans were quick to criticize Mr. Obama, saying that he was overstepping his powers in an end run around Congress. But he said he acted only “in the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system.”
The policy, effective immediately, will apply to people who are currently no more than 30 years old, who arrived in the country before they turned 16 and have lived in the United States for five years. They must also have no criminal record, and have earned a high school diploma, be in school or have served in the military.
These qualifications resemble in some ways those of the so-called Dream Act, a measure blocked by Congress in 2010 that was geared to establish a path toward citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants. The administration’s action on Friday, which stops deportations but does not offer citizenship or even permanent legal status, is being undertaken by executive order and does not require legislation.
What the younger immigrants will obtain, officials said, is the ability to apply for a two-year “deferred action” that effectively removes the threat of deportation for up to two years, with repeated extensions. “This is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” said Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary. “It is an exercise of discretion.”
Talk about blatant pandering for votes. Here we are in a in the middle of year four of a recession, three of those years were Obama years, and there are not enough jobs for Americans. So what does Obama do? Panders to Hispanics by claiming that the Government will no longer deport illegal aliens. Ugh. If Obama is elected to a second term we are doomed. JD
People whose deferrals are approved will then be able to apply for work permits, which will be dealt with case by case, officials said. They estimated that the new policy would cover about 800,000 people.
One of them, Maria Praeli, a 19-year-old high school senior, said she teared up when she found out about the change after completing her final exam of the year.
“I can finally drive and not have to worry about the police,” she said. “I can finally have a work permit and not just to make money but to pursue a career.” She wants to become a social worker.
The decision highlighted the importance of Latino voters to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign. Many of the states in which the election will be decided — Florida, Colorado, Virginia and Nevada among them — have large and growing Hispanic populations.
Mr. Obama’s action falls short of what some advocates have been seeking from an overhaul of the immigration system, and some Hispanic leaders have expressed disappointment that he has not done more.