The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.Unlike the DREAM Act, this move doesn't create a path to citizenship because that will require an act of Congress, but removing the threat of deportation from hundreds of thousands of law-abiding residents who came to America as children is still an important step towards achieving the goals of the DREAM Act.
The policy change, described to The Associated Press by two senior administration officials, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It also bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.
The policy directive has now been formally announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, confirming the AP's report. Her memo explaining the directive is here. The guidance is effective immediately and will be implemented within sixty days.
President Obama will deliver remarks on it in a Rose Garden briefing today at 1:15 PM ET.
7:18 AM PT: One thing that seems like an important political implication of this is that this is basically what Marco Rubio had wanted to do with his Republican half-DREAM Act. Romney had indicated he might support that proposal, which would have been a flip-flop and caused problems for him with his base. Now that Obama has used his executive authority to accomplish the same thing (a) it will be impossible for Republicans to try to claim a half-DREAM Act is a suitable replacement for a real DREAM Act with a path to citizenship and (b) it will probably be impossible for Romney to endorse Rubio's plan, now that Obama has moved forward with it.
7:19 AM PT: Apparently, Romney is kicking off his (yawn) bus tour now, and not making any mention of the immigration policy shift. I don't blame him—he's really in a bind. He probably had wanted to support Rubio's version of this policy, but now he can't—at least not without explicitly endorsing Obama's position.
7:27 AM PT: One more thing on Romney and Rubio: Rubio never actually introduced anything. And even if he had done so, the fact that the administration was able to take this step under current law shows how empty his measure would have been. Congress still needs to pass a DREAM Act, but with today's move, Rubio and Romney won't be able to hedge by going halfway—they'll need to take a clear position, and unless they have the courage to buck their base (which they don't), that position will be "no."7:32 AM PT: