WASHINGTON — President Obama has ordered his administration to stop deporting young immigrants who came to the U.S. as young children and who do not pose a security threat, senior administration officials said Friday morning.
Effective immediately, young immigrants who arrived before they turned 16 will be allowed to apply for work permits as long as they have no criminal history and meet a series of other criteria, officials said.
The change comes at crucial moment in a presidential campaign that will turn in part on who wins over Latino voters.
Republican leaders, including GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have argued for greater efforts to identify and deport anyone living in the U.S. illegally — including those who have lived and worked here for years, not just those found guilty of committing crimes.
Since securing his party’s nomination, some within the GOP have urged Romney to take a softer approach. But he has not yet taken a stance on more lenient proposals aimed at accommodating concerns of young people.
Obama has called for a broad overhaul of immigration policy and embraces the concept of Dream Act legislation, which would create a legal way for immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to stay in the country.
The change the administration is announcing today would allow illegal immigrants under the age of 30 to stay and work in the country if they don’t pose a national security or public safety risk.
Disqualified from application would be immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons and repeat offenders of immigration law.
Those who show that they meet the criteria will be eligible to apply for deferred action on deportation for a period of two years. That status will be renewable, one official said.
They will also be able to apply for authorization to work.
Under the new rules, eligible individuals would have to meet a series of requirements in order to apply. They must have come to the U.S. before they turned 16 and must have resided in the U.S. continuously for at least five years.
They must be present in the U.S. right now, and be enrolled in school, hold a high school diploma or GED or serve in the U.S. military. Veterans who have been honorably discharged would also be eligible.
They cannot be convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense or more than one misdemeanor, or for some other reason pose a security or safety threat.
Obama plans to discuss the announcement in the Rose Garden later Friday.