The shift on the politically volatile issue of immigration policy prompted immediate praise from Latino leaders who have criticised Congress and the White House for inaction, while Republicans reacted with outrage, saying the move amounts to amnesty—a negative buzz word among conservatives—and usurps congressional authority.
“Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people,” Obama said in his remarks to the White House press corps at the Rose Garden.
“Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorisation,” he said.
Obama said the changes caused by his executive order will make immigration policy “more fair, more efficient and more just.”
“Now, let's be clear. This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary, stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is the right thing to do,” Obama said in his speech during which he was interrupted a few times by a member of the press.
“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.
They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants, and often have no idea that they're undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver's license or a college scholarship,” he said.