US to Stop Deporting Some Young Immigrants

Posted June 15th, 2012 at 5:30 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama has eased enforcement of immigration laws for young illegal immigrants saying it is the “right thing to do.”

Speaking at the White House Friday, President Barack Obama said the U.S. government will stop deporting young immigrants who entered the country as children and who have since lived within the law. The White House says the policy change will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants.

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.

“They are Americans in their heart and their minds; in every single way but one — on paper.”

President Obama said the move is not an amnesty and is not a permanent fix, adding that a permanent policy solution would have to come from Congress.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the president's actions make reaching a long-term solution more difficult. Other Republicans challenged Mr. Obama's legal authority to impose his plan.

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 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.”

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. Romney is also scheduled to address the group.

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.

OBAMA VIDEO SOUNDBITE Time Cues 10:19:05 – 10:29:03


Additional soundbites of Mark Krikorian available (in Dalet 5.1 House Shared Friday “CN US Immigration Krikorian ADDITIONAL bites”):

“This is a lawless act. I mean there's no way around it. Despite the administration's pious denials that this doesn't create any legal status and the rest of it, they are enacting amnesty without the permission of Congress. These people will be getting two-year renewable permits to live in the United States. They'll be able to apply for an employment authorization document. In other words, they can live and work legally in the United States. That's amnesty.”

“The DREAM act has been voted down by Congress several times, and so the administration is simply enacting that bill, in effect, on its own. Congress won't vote for it, so they're just doing it. Now the people benefiting from this are not immediately going to get green cards. There's no question that it's not exactly the same as the DREAM Act. But they're going to get two-year renewable legal status with the right to work. That's amnesty.”