President Obama will appear in the Rose Garden today to expand on the administration's decision to stop deporting some illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Under the decision, which takes effect 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."
The election year decision comes as both presidential campaigns try to lure Hispanic voters in some of the nation's biggest swing states, including Florida and North Carolina. Immigrant advocates have been critical of Obama for stepping up deportations and not more forcefully enacting a Dream Act to protect such immigrants and they hailed the news Friday.
"Applaud @WhiteHouse for suspending deportation of #DREAMers," New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez tweeted. "Will forever change the lives of these young people who call this country home."
Obama just last night referenced the issue at a New York fundraiser, telling the crowd he needed a second term because "we still have to reform our immigration system to make sure that incredibly talented young people who grew up here, who understand themselves as Americans, but may have been brought here with parents who didn’t have papers -- that those kids have a chance to contribute, start businesses, and thrive and do all the things that remind us this is a nation of immigrants as well as a nation of laws."
Homeland Security says 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 a work permit.
Florida Republican Rep. Allen West criticized Obama for acting without congressional authorization, calling it "yet another example of executive overreach!"
She said 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 offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
5.) Are not above the age of thirty.
Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.
While this guidance takes effect immediately, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty days. In the meantime, individuals seeking more information on the new policy should visit USCIS’s website (at www.uscis.gov), ICE’s website (at www.ice.gov), or DHS’s website (at www.dhs.gov). Beginning Monday, individuals can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours with questions or to request more information on the forthcoming process.
For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of ICE’s ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.
For more information on the Administration policy reforms to date, please see this fact sheet.