WASHINGTON — President Obama on Friday announced a new policy under which most students who lack the documentation to reside legally in the United States can avoid deportation and may be able to receive the authorization to work in the United States.
The action falls far short of the federal DREAM Act (for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), which would provide a path to citizenship for such students. But Obama's action removes the immediate threat of deportation, a threat that led many would-be students to avoid continuing their educations. Most advocates for immigrant students and officials at colleges that educate them praised the president's move, but some cautioned that the excitement over some forward progress for these students should not obscure the rights they still lack. And many Republican leaders — who have blocked the DREAM Act in Congress — attacked the president's move as politically motivated and/or illegal.
Under the new policy, those who meet certain requirements will be eligible for renewable two-year deferments of any action that could lead to deportation, and would receive the right to apply for a work permit. To be eligible, the students would have to have been brought to the United States — under the age of 16 — by their parents. In addition, they would have to have lived in the United States for five years, either currently be in school or have graduated from high school or obtained a GED, not have committed a serious crime, and not be older than 30.
The threat of deportation has been so real to many students that word of Obama's action led to immediate celebrations in cities like Los Angeles with many who will benefit from the policy. Groups such as the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and United We Dream (a network of students seeking the right to stay in the United States) issued statements of praise. The latter called the president's actions "a momentous act of courage and a profoundly important step toward justice for immigrant youth."
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