US to Stop Deporting Some Young Immigrants

Posted June 15th, 2012 at 3:05 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama says his administration's decision to stop deporting certain qualified young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children is the “right thing to do.”

Speaking at the White House Friday, President Obama said it makes no sense to expel talented young people, who he said for all intents and purposes are Americans, simply because of the actions of their parents or because of the inaction of politicians.

Mr. Obama spoke just hours after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the policy change. Napolitano said young immigrants who do not present a risk to national security and meet other key criteria will be eligible to stay in the country and apply for work permits.

To be eligible for deferred action on deportation, immigrants must have been under the age of 16 when they came to the United States and have lived continuously in the country for at least five years. They cannot have a criminal history, must not be older than 30, and must also be currently in school, or a high school graduate or recipient of an equivalent degree, or a veteran of the U.S. military.

Those who meet the criteria can receive deferred action for two years, which can then be renewed. The new rules will affect as many as 800,000 young people.

The Homeland Security Department says the action further enhances its ability to focus on what it called “priority removals,” including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons and repeat immigration law offenders.

But Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates tougher immigration policies, says the move amounts to enacting amnesty without the permission of Congress and is therefore, a violation of the Constitution.

“This is illegal. I mean, I don't think there's really any way around it. The Constitution sets out very a clear means for writing and changing the laws. This is not a matter of interpreting the laws. This is not a matter of using discretion about who will be deported and who won't be, this is creating new law, but without the input of the elected representatives of the people. There's no excuse for it.”

President Obama said this is not amnesty, immunity, a path to citizenship or even a permanent fix, but a “temporary stopgap measure” that lets the U.S. focus its resources wisely “while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”

The policy change achieves some of the goals of the so-called DREAM Act — legislation the Obama administration has tried unsuccessfully to push through Congress that would give eligible illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children a pathway to citizenship.

Krikorian dismissed the announcement as an attempt to energize Hispanic voters as Mr. Obama battles for re-election.

“This is not a policy move, this is a political move. The Department of Homeland Security didn't decide this. This is from the Obama 2012 campaign, pure and simple. It's just a campaign move, and as long as they get through November, it doesn't really matter to them what the other implications will be.”

The decision comes a week before President Obama is set to address a gathering of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Public opinion polls show Mr. Obama holding the support of a majority of Hispanic voters, but his administration's aggressive deportation policies have generated some backlash.