U.S. to stop deporting young illegal immigrants
"President Obama and his administration once again have put partisan politics and illegal immigrants ahead of the rule of law and the American people," Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
Republicans including Romney say they want tighter border security measures before they will consider changes in immigration law. Romney opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college but has said he would do so for those who serve in the armed forces.
Praise for the new policy was also swift. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, called the decision "an historic humanitarian moment" and compared it to the decision two decades ago to give political asylum to Cuban refugees fleeing the communist island. "This is at least a reflection of that moment in history."
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "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 center our immigration policy around our economic needs."
Midway through his remarks, Mr. Obama was interrupted by a reporter from a conservative online publication, Neil Munro of the Daily Caller, who shouted, "Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?" Clearly irritated, Mr. Obama said that he was explaining the policy, not looking for an argument, and that the change was the "right thing to do for the American people."
Napolitano said Friday the decision "is well within the framework of our existing laws."
"We should not forget that we are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants," she said. "With respect to these young people, deferred action, the decision I announced today, is simply the right thing to do."
The Obama administration's deportation policies have come under fire, and Latino leaders have raised the subject in private meetings with the president. In 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported a record 396,906 people and is expected to deport about 400,000 this year.
A December poll by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 59 percent of Latinos disapproved of the president's handling of deportations.
The administration announcement comes ahead of an expected Supreme Court decision on Arizona's tough 2010 immigration law that, among other things, requires police to ask for immigration papers from anyone they stop or arrest and suspect is in the country illegally. The Obama administration has challenged the law.
The exact details of how the program will work, including how much immigrants will have to pay to apply and what proof they will need, still are being worked out.
Administration officials stopped short of calling the change an administrative DREAM Act, but the qualifications track with those laid out in a 2010 version that failed in the Senate after passing in the House. They said comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system remained an administration priority.
Illegal immigrant children won't be eligible to apply for the deportation waiver until they turn 16, but officials said younger children won't be deported, either.
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