US to halt deportations of young immigrants
The United States will stop deporting young law-abiding illegal immigrants who satisfy broad criteria, in a move that will be seen as a concession to the Hispanic community ahead of November’s election.
The move applies to minors brought to the country before the age of 16, who are currently under 30, are in school or have graduated from high school, and have not been convicted of a felony, officials said.
President Barack Obama said on Friday his administration’s decision to stop deporting the illegal immigrants was a “just” move that was not a permanent fix to the country’s immigration problem.
“This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It is not a permanent fix,” Obama told reporters at the White House.
The move will likely be vigorously protested against by conservative Republicans and be seen as a bid by the president to solidify his hold on the youth and Hispanic vote that could be critical in several swing states in November.
“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
“But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case.
“Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language.
“Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
The decision will go some way to enshrining the goals of the DREAM Act, legislation backed by the White House that could lead to young illegal immigrants, brought to the US by their parents, gaining permanent residency.
The legislation, opposed by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and conservative Republicans, has failed to pass Congress and become law.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Washington DC, Brent Wilkes, the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the US Latino community is “delighted that Obama has taken this initiative”.
“But this is not the DREAM Act, which is something we really hoped to get passed in congress. The DREAM Act would allow for folks to have permanent legal residency and a pathway to citizenship. This divert action doesn’t do that,