The Obama administration will stop deporting young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and who do not pose a security threat, senior administration officials said Friday.
Effective immediately, young immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16 can apply for work permits as long as they don’t have a criminal history and meet other criteria, officials said. Illegal immigrants younger than 30 will be allowed to stay and work in the country if they don’t pose a national security or public safety risk, the Los Angeles Times said.
The policy change, announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will affect up to 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation, The Associated Press said.
“Many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways,” Napolitano wrote in a memorandum describing the administration’s action. “Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
President Barack Obama called for a broad overhaul of immigration policy and embraces the concept of Dream Act legislation, which would allow immigrant children to legally remain in the country, the Times said.
Friday’s actions come a week before Obama plans to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Official’s annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Republican candidate Mitt Romney is scheduled to speak to the group Thursday, the AP said.
The Hispanic vote could be critical in swing states like Florida this fall when voters head to the polls. While Obama has support from a majority of Hispanic voters, Latino enthusiasm for the president has taken a hit from the slow economic recovery, his inability to win congressional support for immigration laws and his administration’s aggressive deportation policy, the AP said.
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