Washington — The United States will immediately stop deporting certain young immigrants who were brought to the country as children, President Obama announced, a change that he said will make the U.S. immigration system “more efficient, more fair and more just.”
“These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag,” Obama said at the White House June 15. “They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”
He said the new approach, outlined by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier in the day, will apply to individuals who came to the United States when they were under the age of 16; have resided in the United States for at least five years; are currently in school, have graduated from high school, or have served in the military; have not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor offense; and are not above the age of 30.
“We have always drawn strength from being a nation of immigrants as well as a nation of laws, and that’s going to continue,” Obama said. He said the change will allow eligible individuals to request short-term relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.
“This is a temporary, stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people,” Obama said.
He said the United States still needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform to address 21st-century economic and security needs.
“I will not give up on this issue, not only because it’s the right thing to do for our economy … not just because it’s the right thing to do for our security, but because it’s the right thing to do, period,” he said.
Obama once again called on lawmakers to take up the DREAM Act, which would provide eligible young people a path to citizenship.
“I have said time and time and time again to Congress ... send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away,” the president said.
The act, written by both Democrats and Republicans, was passed in the House of Representatives before failing to pass the Senate in 2010.
That lack of action in Congress prompted the president to exercise the power of his office through an executive order to address the issue.
Since 1789, U.S. presidents have issued executive orders to help officers and agencies of the executive branch effectively manage the operations of the federal government.
Executive orders have the full force of law and rely on the discretionary powers granted to the president by the U.S. Constitution. Executive orders continue in force until they expire or are revoked. They can be challenged in federal court and the U.S. Supreme Court can overturn them, something that has happened twice in U.S. history.
Obama said that, effective immediately, the Homeland Security Department is working to “lift the shadow of deportation” from young people who meet the new policy criteria. Napolitano said they will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will also be eligible to apply for work authorization.