Administration's immigration announcement presents challenges to Republicans, Obama
Iowa Rep. Steve King plans to sue administration to halt implementation
The Obama administration's decision Friday to halt deportations and to begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrations who came to the U.S. as children inspired both jubilation and dismay.
The changes were unveiled in a memo by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and specified that the following criteria would be used to identify who would be eligible for the changed policy:
The individual came to the U.S. under the age of 16
The individual has continuously resided in the U.S. for at least five years preceding the date of the memo and is present in the U.S. on the date of the memo
The individual is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or armed forces of the United States
The individual has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety
The individual is not above the age of thirty
"Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner. They are not designed to blindly enforce without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case," the memo said. "Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here."
The switch in policy comes a little more than a year after President Barack Obama told an audience at Univision network's Latino youth town hall that he was obliged to follow U.S. laws regarding deportation and could not use an executive order to change things.
"There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president," Obama said.
Those who stand to benefit from the policy change expressed sentiments like, "I can breathe," the Los Angeles Times reported. Beginning Wednesday, undocumented immigrant students have been staging sit-ins at Obama campaign offices around the country, asking him to support the DREAM Act, which would grant children of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
Jose Luis Zelaya told CNN that he was electrified by the news.
"It's just insane," Zelaya said. "I've been working on this for six years. It is just overwhelming."
“At the beginning I sort of didn’t believe it,” said Justino Mora, a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant who is studying at the University of California, Los Angles, “but then almost immediately I was overwhelmed by a sense of joy. It gives me hope. It motivates me to continue fighting for my family, for my community.”
The Obama administration will likely deny that politics played a role in the announcement, Matt Negrin wrote at ABC News, but the timing is ideal for Obama's re-election campaign.
"Obama's announcement today is likely to curry favor with Hispanics, a key growing voting bloc that could determine the winner in November in important states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada," Negrin reported. "The president beats Romney among Hispanics in polls, but most Latinos say they disapprove of Obama's deportation policy."
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