President Barack Obama announced Friday that illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children can remain in the country without fear of deportation.
In a way to reform the current immigration system, President Barack Obama announced an executive action on Friday allowing 800,000 young illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as a child to remain in the country without the fear of deportation or inability to find work.
The new policy announcement comes hot off the heels of Obama’s recent pro-stance on gay marriage. Democrats are calling the policy a step in the right direction, while Republicans are viewing it as the worst form of political pandering from the president thus far.
The policy will cover people aged 30 or younger who are currently in school, have earned a high school diploma, or are serving in the military. A clean criminal record is required to show the individual does not pose a threat, and people must have come to the country before age 16 and lived here at least five years to qualify.
While the policy will not grant any permanent legal citizen status, it will allow thousands of individuals to work legally, obtain a valid driver’s license and other government documents they may lack. The policy is being compared to the “Dream Act” which failed to pass in Congress last year.
“They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” President Obama said in announcing the new policy.
The newly announced policy has already created strong opposition from the Republican party who said Obama using his executive powers to bypass Congress was abusive.
Fox News Latino called the policy just another ploy for re-election votes from Obama.
“Obama's announcement is meant to mollify Hispanics who think the President hasn't done enough on immigration,” the news site said.
Fox News Latino points out the President's new proposal and recent calls for marriage equality and easier access to birth control as ways to garner support from young voters, women and now Hispanics before the 2012 election.
“It's a risky move for a President that is already seen as being politically calculating and could create a backlash among voters in industrial swing states that Obama is trying to woo,” Fox News Latino said.
Many students at UT celebrated the news and commended the president for his actions on immigration reform and progressive stance of social issues.
“It is a big step towards not only fixing our immigration policy but it has also now made it a bit easier for those who are here illegally, who go to school, have graduated college, to be able to now completely achieve their American dream,” said Stephanie D. Piña, a government and international relations & global studies junior.
Obama declared that the policy change is “the right thing to do.” The president said it would make the immigration policy more fair and efficient.
"This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," Obama said. "This is a temporary stopgap measure."
The policy received immediate praise from Latino leaders after many have criticized Obama for his previous inaction and an overall increase in deportation numbers during his time in office. Last year, 396,906 illegal immigrants were removed from the U.S., according to CNN.
“Children of illegal immigrants study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, befriend our kids, pledge allegiance to our flag," Obama said. “It makes no sense to expel talented young people who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans."