The Obama administration announced that it will no longer deport younger immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children and will begin issuing work permits to them, The Huffington Post reported.
The permits only would be available to individuals who had led law-abiding lives, the website reported. As many as 800,000 people could be affected by the policy change.
"Today, I am announcing that effective immediately, young people brought to U.S. by no fault of their own and meet several criteria no longer are removed from country or entered into removal proceedings,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said to Fox News.
Fox News reported that immigrants will have had to live in the U.S. for five years, be younger than 30, and have arrived before they turned 16 to qualify.
The Los Angeles Times reported that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said that the policy change "ignores the rule of law that is the foundation of our democracy. This huge policy shift has horrible consequences for unemployed Americans looking for jobs and violates President Obama’s oath to uphold the laws of this land."
Florida Congressman Allen West told Fox news that the policy change was an example of "executive overreach." West told Fox that the change should have been debated as legislation by Congress.
The policy change accomplishes many of the goals of the DREAM Act, which passed the House in 2010 but stalled in the Senate, the Huffington Post reported.
"This grant of deferred action is not immunity," the website quoted Napolitano. "It is not amnesty. It is an exercise of discretion so that these young people are not in the removal system. It will help us to continue to streamline immigration enforcement and ensure that resources are not spent pursuing the removal of low-priority cases involving productive young people."