President Obama is making dreams come true for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants that will save them from deportation from the United States. In a statement delivered in the White House Rose Garden Friday afternoon, the president announced a new policy to prevent their deportation. Effective immediately, it allows "law-abiding" individuals who are under 30, have arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and have lived here for five years to obtain two-year, renewable work permits.
"This is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, it's not a permanent fix," he said. "This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a sense of relief to driven young people. It's the right thing to do."
To be eligible, individuals must have no criminal record, and have earned a high school diploma or G.E.D., or served in the military. The provisions are very similar to those in the DREAM Act that Congressional Republicans have persistently blocked from moving forward. By issuing an executive order, the administration can bypass that opposition.
It also is very strategically timed. Next week, the president will address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' annual conference. More important, the Latino population is growing not just in numbers but in political influence, and will be a deciding factor in this year's presidential election.
The demographic is more Democratically inclined, but has expressed deep frustration over Obama's unfulfilled promise of comprehensive immigration reform. The new policy could boost his re-election prospects and Latino turnout in November.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential Republican vice presidential nominee, who has developed his own DREAM Act alternative, offered a guarded response to the news.
"Today’s announcement will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer, but it is a short term answer to a long term problem," he said. "And by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short-term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long-term one."
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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)