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Obama admin announces immigration reform policy

August 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Obama administration announced a major change in policy for thousands of illegal immigrants going through deportation proceedings. They now may be able to stay in the country.

There are currently 300,000 deportation cases making their way through the federal immigration courts, but under the new policy immigrants classified as low-priority cases could be granted a stay and a chance to apply for a work permit.

Ana, who wouldn't give ABC7 her last name because she's in the country illegally, told us she's a recent graduate of Mission High and is now cleaning houses to make money before starting college in the fall.

"You know, we work here. We contribute to this community," said Ana.

The Obama administration now wants to provide relief for people like Ana. Under the new policy announced on Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security will suspend deportation proceedings on young, undocumented immigrants who pose no threat to public safety or national security. The indefinite stay will not give illegal immigrants a path to legal permanent residency, but will let them apply for a work permit.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says, "The president has said on numerous occasions that it makes no sense to expend our enforcement resources on low-priority cases."

"This is probably the most anti-American policy that the Obama administration has set to date," said Rick Oltman from the Tea Party Immigration Coalition.

He predicts the new policy will bring in a flood of new illegal immigrants into the country.

"This sends a green light to everybody on this planet that if they can get to the United States and not be convicted of a crime, they get to stay," said Oltman.

Bay Area immigration advocates aren't too happy about the new policy either, but for different reasons. Many are deeply suspicious of immigration officials, who under the Obama administration expanded a program that allows them to check fingerprints of anyone arrested. Immigration advocates say that has led to the deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of even minor offenses.

"These are agencies that have acted in tremendous bad faith towards local governments and towards the public and so we're very skeptical about these announcements until we really see how it plays out," said Jon Rodney from the California Immigrant Policy Center.

Despite the skepticism, this policy change should help President Obama's standing with Latino voters as he heads into the 2012 election.

Major Hispanic organizations have recently criticized Congress and the president -- who they say have overpromised and under-delivered on immigration issues.


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