Young, undocumented immigrants received some much welcomed news from the White House today, where President Obama announced changes to federal immigration policy that would grant them work permits and lessen the fear of deportation. From the New York Times:
His policy directive, which Latinos and other immigrants have been pleading for since Congress turned aside an effort to pass similar legislation, cast into sharp relief the longstanding political differences on immigration, one of the most divisive and delicate issues being debated as the November elections approach.
Republicans were quick to criticize Mr. Obama, saying that he was overstepping his powers in an end run around Congress. But the president said he was acting only "in the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system."
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said he would prefer a legislative solution, echoing comments earlier in the day from Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, who said that such a stopgap change would make it harder to reach a permanent solution. Mr. Romney did not respond to questions about whether he would revoke the order if elected.
The policy, effective immediately, will apply to people who are currently no more than 30 years old, who arrived in the country before they turned 16 and have lived in the United States for five years. They must also have no criminal record, and have earned a high school diploma, be in school or have served in the military.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement applauding the executive order, but called for full passage of the DREAM Act:
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the action of President Barack Obama today to defer action to all young people eligible under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, saying that it would permit young people who were brought into the United States undocumented to come out of the shadows and more fully participate in society.
“This important action will provide legal protection, and work authorization, to a vulnerable group of immigrants who are deserving of remaining in our country and contributing their talents to our communities,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.“These youth are bright, energetic, and eager to pursue their education and reach their full potential.”
As many as 800,000 young people would be eligible to receive a deferred action on deportation for two years, and a work permit.
Archbishop Gomez said the President’s action is no substitute for passage of the DREAM Act and encouraged Congress to enact comprehensive and humane immigration reform.