WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.
The policy change, announced Friday by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation.
It also bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.
The extraordinary step comes one week before President Barack Obama plans to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney is scheduled to speak to the group on Thursday.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who supports the DREAM Act, issued this statement in reaction to the president's move:
“There is broad support for the idea that we should figure out a way to help kids who are undocumented through no fault of their own, but there is also broad consensus that it should be done in a way that does not encourage illegal immigration in the future. This is a difficult balance to strike, one that this new policy, imposed by executive order, will make harder to achieve in the long run.
“Today’s announcement will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer, but it is a short term answer to a long term problem. And by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long term one.”
Obama responded angrily to a reporter from a conservative online publication who interrupted him during remarks on immigration in the White House Rose Garden.
Obama was speaking about his plan to stop deporting younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Midway through the remarks on Friday, Neil Munro of the Daily Caller shouted to Obama, "Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?" Obama told Munro he would not answer questions while he was speaking.
The president later addressed the reporter directly, saying the plan was the "right thing to do for the American people." Munro continued to shout questions.
Obama told Munro he was explaining the policy, not asking for an argument.
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