Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced this morning that the Obama administration will stop deporting and start granting work permits to young illegal immigrants “who were brought to the United States as young children” and who “do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria.”The AP reports that the policy change will affect 800,000 immigrants, and addresses a top priority of Latino activists who hold the keys to a crucial voting demographic in 2012.
It also bypasses Congress, which has been stalled on immigration reform for the duration of Obama’s presidency.
In a conference call with reporters Friday morning, Napolitano declared that the new policy “is not amnesty.”
“It’s an act of discretion,” she said. “I believe this action is the right thing to do.”
President Obama is scheduled to announce the changes today at 1:15 a.m.
Here’s the statement from Napolitano:
WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.
“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
DHS continues to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. Today’s action further enhances the Department’s ability to focus on these priority removals.
Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case-by-case basis:
1.) Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
2.) Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
3.) Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
4.) Have not been convicted of a felony offence, a significant misdemeanour offence, multiple misdemeanour offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
5.) Are not above the age of 30.
*This post was updated from an earlier version.
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