Obama to halt deportation of some illegal immigrants
AROUND 800,000 young illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children could be spared deportation under new immigration rules announced by the Obama administration last night.
Homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano said illegal immigrants up to the age of 30 who came to the US as children and do not pose a risk to national security would be eligible to stay in the country and allowed to apply for work permits.
The policy was announced one week before president Barack Obama, seeking re-election in November, is scheduled to speak to a meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Florida. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will also address the group next week.
While public opinion polls show Mr Obama getting overwhelming support among Hispanic voters, his relations with the fastest-growing minority group in the US have been strained because of his administration’s aggressive deportation of illegal immigrants.
There are an estimated one to two million illegal immigrants who arrived in the US as children living in the country, according to estimates. Officials said the new measures would affect roughly 800,000 people.
“Effective immediately, young people who were brought to the United States, through no fault of their own as children, and who meet several key criteria will no longer be removed from the country or entered into removal proceedings,” Ms Napolitano told reporters.
“This grant of a deferred action is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” she said.
“It will help us continue to streamline immigration enforcement and ensure that resources are not spent pursuing the removal of low priority cases involving productive young people.”
To be eligible for the new enforcement rules, a person must have come to the US at under 16 years old and have resided in the country for at least five years. They must be in school or have graduated from school or be honourably discharged from the US military. They must also be free of convictions.
A top Republican attacked the new policy. Lamar Smith called Mr Obama’s decision a “breach of faith” that he said will have “horrible consequences” for unemployed Americans looking for jobs.
Most of the illegal immigrants in the US are Hispanics. Immigration is a big issue for the Hispanic community, an important voting bloc that could help determine who wins this year’s election.
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the move. “Ending deportations of innocent young people who have the potential to drive tomorrow’s economy is long overdue, as are many commonsense reforms needed to centre our immigration policy around our economic needs,” he said.
Mr Obama supports immigration reform but has been unable to gain bi-partisan support in Congress for a law that would address the issue.
Legislation known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act passed the House of Representatives in 2010, but fell a handful of votes short in the Senate.
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