Last Updated:July 31 @ 07:13 pm

Obama grants amnesty to hundreds of thousands

By Jim Kuhnhenn and Alicia A. Caldwell

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama suddenly eased enforcement of the nation's immigration laws Friday, an extraordinary step offering a chance for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work. Embraced by Hispanics, his action touched off an election-year confrontation with many Republicans.

Mitt Romney, Obama's GOP election foe, criticized the step but did not say he would try to overturn it if elected.

Obama said the change would become effective immediately to "lift the shadow of deportation from these young people."

"Let's be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix," Obama said from the White House Rose Garden. "This is the right thing to do."

The administration said the change will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the "DREAM Act," legislation that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who went to college or served in the military.

Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants will be able to avoid deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.

The move comes in an election year in which the Hispanic vote could be critical in swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Florida. While Obama enjoys support from a majority of Hispanic voters over Republican challenger Romney, Latino enthusiasm for the president has been tempered by the slow economic recovery, his inability to win congressional support for a broad overhaul of immigration laws and by his administration's aggressive deportation policy.

Some Republicans in Congress - and the governor of Arizona, whose state has been at the center of enforcement controversy - strongly criticized the Obama action. But the response from Romney was more muted.

Romney said Obama's decision will make finding a long-term solution to the nation's immigration issues more difficult. But he also said the plight of illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children is "an important matter to be considered."

During the Republican presidential primaries, Romney said he would veto the DREAM Act with its pathway to citizenship.

Obama's new policy tracks a proposal being drafted by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a potential vice presidential running mate for Romney, as an alternative to the DREAM Act, formally the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act.

Rubio said, "Today's announcement will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer." But, like Romney, he said it was "a short-term answer to a long-term problem," and he added, "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."

The change in enforcement policy, to be carried out by the Department of Homeland Security, comes one week before Obama plans to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Romney is to speak to the group on Thursday.

Making his case on humanitarian grounds, Obama said, "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. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."

The political appeal for many of America's Hispanics was clear. The president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguia, said, "When it comes to the Hispanic community, this action is a political plus" for Obama. "It's always good to be able to point to your track record and move the needle toward a promise that you made."

In Los Angeles, immigrant students and their supporters rallied at a downtown street to celebrate the announcement, briefly blocking a freeway entrance ramp.

The change drew a swift repudiation from Republican lawmakers, who accused Obama of circumventing Congress in an effort to boost his political standing and of favoring illegal immigrants over unemployed U.S. citizens.

"President Obama and his administration once again have put partisan politics and illegal immigrants ahead of the rule of law and the American people," Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

And Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a long time hardliner on immigration issues, said he planned to file suit to halt the policy.

Still, neither House Speaker John Boehner nor Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell addressed the issue, underscoring the difficulty for Republican leaders as they walk a fine line of trying to appeal to the nation's fastest-growing minority group while not alienating their conservative base.

In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer said the change represented a "pre-emptive strike" before an upcoming Supreme Court ruling that could uphold parts of the state's tough immigration enforcement law. She also said the new policy would muddy the waters for Arizona's enforcement efforts.

Many Republicans, including Romney, say they want tighter border security measures before they will consider changes in immigration law. Romney opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college but has said he would do so for those who serve in the armed forces.

Praise for the new policy was also swift. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus applauded the move as long overdue. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, called the decision "an historic humanitarian moment" and compared it to the decision two decades ago to give political asylum to Cuban refugees fleeing the communist island. "This is at least a reflection of that moment in history."

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "Ending deportations of innocent young people who have the potential to drive tomorrow's economy is long overdue, as are many commonsense reforms needed to center our immigration policy around our economic needs."

Midway through his remarks, Obama was interrupted by a reporter from a conservative online publication, Neil Munro of the Daily Caller, who shouted, "Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?" Clearly irritated, Obama said that he was explaining the policy, not looking for an argument, and that the change was the "right thing to do for the American people."

Obama in the past has resisted pressure to use his executive authority to relax deportations in such a broad manner. The administration had been reviewing deportations on a case-by-case basis, and officials said they concluded that by using the same authority they could help a larger swath of immigrants while at the same time helping unclog immigration courts.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the decision "is well within the framework of our existing laws."

The Obama administration's deportation policies have come under fire, and Latino leaders have raised the subject in private meetings with the president. In 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported a record 396,906 people and is expected to deport about 400,000 this year.

A December poll by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 59 percent of Latinos disapproved of the president's handling of deportations.

The administration announcement comes ahead of an expected Supreme Court decision on Arizona's tough 2010 immigration law that, among other things, requires police to ask for immigration papers from anyone they stop or arrest and suspect is in the country illegally. The Obama administration has challenged the law.

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11 Comments

  1. genesalComment by genesal
    June 16, 2012 @ 9:29 am

    Rep. Steve King Threatens to Sue Obama Over Immigration Order
    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/king-obama-lawsuit-immigration/2012/06/15/id/442497?s=al&promo_code=F359-1

    Iowa Rep. Steve King said on Friday that he would sue the Obama administration to block its newly announced plan to grant amnesty to certain children of illegal immigrants.

    “I will tell you that — I’m not without experience on this — I’m prepared to bring a suit and seek a court order to stop implementation of this policy,” King said on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s radio program, The Daily Caller reports.

    The Republican congressman, vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, told Huckabee that he had prevailed in a lawsuit against his own state on a similar separation of powers issue.

    I say Rep King kick his rear end so hard you both have to go to the Hospital to have your foot removed!

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    Rating: 4.2/5 (5 votes cast)
    • downdraftComment by downdraft
      June 16, 2012 @ 11:13 am

      There are 1,000,000 JOBS for ILLEGALS attached with Obama’s “GET THE GRINGO VOTE POLICY”…no offense to my legal brothers and sisters when I use the term gringo.

      These are UNION JOBS that could be sought after by unionized LEGAL AMERICANS…but OBAMA has denied those unions of these 1,000,000 JOBS …

      JUST TO GET THE ILLEGALS TO VOTE FOR HIM…

      So, it telles us all, union and non union, those of us who are LEGALS and pay our taxes…that OBAMA HAS THROWN AMERICANS UNDER THE BUS….

      Just to get votes…

      He has abandoned us all out here for SELFISH PURPOSES…

      THIS MAN IS A TRAITOR TO US ALL…and does my union complain? I don’t hear any noise!

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      Rating: 4.3/5 (6 votes cast)
    • genesalComment by genesal
      June 16, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

      Like I said, any and every trick possible just to get re-elected. This is just the beginning.

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      Rating: 4.0/5 (4 votes cast)
  2. budgetminder2012Comment by budgetminder2012
    June 16, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    Rubio was too soft on his comments on Obama’s power grab from Congress. Where are the real men who will stand up to this dictator and tell him he can’t usurp Congressional powers or the Constitution? I’m sick of Obama ignoring our Constitution and Bill of Rights; and I’m disgusted that this Congress has allowed him to do it. I say GO FOR IT REP. KING – the American people are behind you!

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    • JoeEnglishComment by enraged8hobbit
      June 16, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

      It appears that Rubio will show his true RINO colors nopw that obumble has defied the congress and the American people for the umpteenth time. Looks like the TEA party backed the wrong person for representation of the State of Florida. He just LOST my vote when he is up for re-election.

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  3. JoeEnglishComment by enraged8hobbit
    June 16, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

    And now all the republicans will loudly complain about obumble bypassing congress and Americans but will anything be done? Short answer NOT ON YOUR LIFE, they will never do a damn thing about this except complain publicly and pass the buck privately . We need to organize a TEA party as a 3rd choice

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    Rating: 3.5/5 (6 votes cast)
  4. Vincent RossComment by Vincent Ross
    June 17, 2012 @ 7:33 am

    Are all you young voters who went gaga over Obama paying attention? Who do you think these young Illegal Aliens are going to be competing with? Us old folks? Noooo.. they are gonna be competing against YOU young Americans. Unemployment is already 54% for adult Americans under 25.. and even those adults under 25 with 4 year bachelor’s degrees have a 53.6% unemployment rate. And as if things are not bad enough for you already… Obama just legalized more people to compete against you.

    I hate to break a nasty little secret to you, but in spite of all that positive self-esteem b.s. they pumped into you in school, you cannot even come close to competing against THEM where ambition, and in some cases education, is concerned.

    I wish you lots of luck… because you’re really gonna need it.
    I “HOPE” this “CHANGE” is all you imagined it would be.

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  5. year2011Comment by year2011
    June 17, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

    Americans and the Congress told Obama many times we do not support amnesty for your illegal aliens, criminals. Obama signed the executive order because he does not have our support. As a result, Obama must be impeached now.

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  6. billwvComment by billwv
    June 17, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

    The idiot that wrote this article said: Obama ‘suddenly eased enforcement’. How sick and ludicrous! Ozero knows no respect for ‘law’ and he never will. He is a lawless idiot that needs to be dealt with and in as stern a measures as is constitutionally possible and [ASAP] as soon as possible.

    He is a total and miserable failure as a human being much less as POTUS. Take this bum and put him back in the ghettos of Chicago with the thugs and castaways of society. Why should America be burdened with the ‘hyper-stupidity’ of this level and magnitude?

    Send this poster boy of heinous atrosity and disrespect to our constitution and it’s laws where he needs to go.

    VOTE 0bama out in November.

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  7. budgetminder2012Comment by budgetminder2012
    June 18, 2012 @ 7:10 am

    Why is Congress not screaming that this is unconstitutional? This is so blatently outside of the Executive Branch’s duties as outlined in our Constitution. I’m disgusted that NOT ONE OF THEM has the courage to bring this to the floor of Congress.

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    • Jota_Comment by Jota_
      June 20, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

      “Why is Congress not screaming that this is unconstitutional?”

      Good question, most definitely not a power of the presidency to dictate which laws he will obey

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      Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

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