NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — President Barack Obama made stunning change of course on immigration Friday in the heat of his re-election campaign.
The administration will stop deporting illegal immigrants who came here as children, and give them work permits, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria With More On The Story
There will be no more arrests and no more fear of deportation for as many as 800,000 immigrants who came to the United States as children and have since had no criminal records. The president said it will make immigration policy, “more fair more efficient and more just.”
In a surprising move that circumvents Congress, President Obama ordered Department of Homeland Security officials to stop deporting illegal immigrants if they were brought to this country before they turned 16, and are younger than 30.
The illegal immigrants also must have been in the country for at least five continuous years without a criminal record. Furthermore, they must have served in the U.S. military, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED.
The move also included provisions for work permits that would be valid for two years without any limits on renewing those permits.
What the move does not do is “provide immunity; it doesn’t provide a pathway to citizenship but it does allow these young people to stay,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman Reports
In an equally stunning move, the president was twice heckled by Neil Munro, from the conservative online publication, “Daily Caller” and Obama angrily stalked away as the man shouted, “What about American workers who are unemployed while you import foreigners?”
After Munro’s first attempt to disrupt the press conference the president said, “The answer to your question, sir, and the next time I prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question, is this: it’s the right thing to do for the American people.
“Here’s the reason, because these young people are gonna make extraordinary contributions, and are already making extraordinary contributions to our society.”
Congress has been wrestling with so-called “DREAM act” legislation, but in a nod to Latino voters, who could be a critical factor in swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Florida, the president isn’t waiting.
“With its action today, the Obama Administration is making a significant portion of the DREAM Act a reality,” New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said in a statement. “Ending deportations of innocent young people who have the potential to drive tomorrow’s economy is long overdue, as are many common-sense reforms needed to center our immigration policy around our economic needs.”
Republicans, including Mitt Romney, said they want tighter border security before they will consider changes in immigration law.
“This is an important matter that we have to find a long-term solution, but the president’s action makes reaching a long-term solution more difficult,” Romney said.
However, immigration groups had the following reaction:
“This is a long-time coming, and it’s a big step toward immigration reform,” said Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, the executive director of Long Island Wins.
“This bill, as I understand it, is very short of what we really want. I guess the president’s advisors don’t really advise him of precisely what we need,” said Fernando Mateo of Hispanics Across America.
But don’t tell that to the people CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis saw at an English as a second language class in West New York, N.J., on Friday night. They celebrated the president’s policy shift.
West New York, N.J., President Obama’s new immigration rules were celebrated.
“Yes big news today, yes from Obama,” said Carlos Cordova, a native of Mexico.
The new policy speaks to the case of Nadia Habib, whom CBS 2 profiled last year. She was a Stony Brook University honors student who was facing deportation because her mother brought her to the U.S. at 18 months old from Bangladesh, and had never been granted citizenship.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service wanted to deport her, but a temporary reprieve has allowed her to stay for at least a year.
A chance is all 24-year-old Sandra Amaya, an immigrant from El Salvador, wants. She said she came to the U.S. as a child and has been working toward becoming a legal resident.
“The paper is very important, for work and the student, everything,” Amaya said.
Federal immigration agents are expected to deport 400,000 this year. A December poll by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 59 percent disapprove of the president’s handling of deportations.
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