Since yesterday's much-hyped "reframing" speech in Ohio was so widely panned (and rightly so, as Guy points out), Team Obama needed something epic to replace the unflattering headlines. And hey, if it'll appeal to a major, potentially-swing voting bloc, more's the better. So Obama did what he does best -- circumventing Congress -- and had Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano release new, DREAM Act-like guidelines that relax deportation standards. Now, illlegal immigrants who meet certain criteria may stay here, and obtain work permits:
The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.
The policy change, described to The Associated Press by two senior administration officials, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It also bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.
Notably, the policy does not offer citizenship; in fact, it's pretty similar to Marco Rubio's iteration of the DREAM Act (as an aside, keep an eye out to see how the left receives Obama's new policy, since they were so quick to stamp Rubio's plan as bad for immigrants). Per Napolitano's statement, the specific new criteria that immigrants must meet are as follows:
Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case-by-case basis:
1.) Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
2.) Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
3.) Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
4.) Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
5.) Are not above the age of thirty.
Naturally, the adminsitration patently denies that this move was politically motivated, but methinks the lady doth protest too much. The annoucment comes at a pretty fortuitous time -- just a week ahead of major policy speeches both Obama and Romney will be making at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' annual conference. Furthermore, Romney took a fairly anti-illegal immigration tack during the primary, and this is a way for Obama to sharply contrast himself with his Republican challenger. He has nothing to say on the economy that won't get shoved back in his face, so he's switching issues.
Of course, as my colleague Erika Johnsen over at Hot Air points out, it wasn't too long ago that this administration was bragging about how they had a higher deportation rate than during the Bush years. The highest ever, actually:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said Tuesday his agency deported nearly 400,000 individuals during the fiscal year 2011 that just ended in September.
Morton announced the numbers in Washington, saying they were the largest in the agency's history.
ICE said about 55 percent of the 396,906 individuals deported had felony or misdemeanor convictions. Officials said the number of individuals convicted of crimes was up 89 percent from 2008.
Today's statement is undeniably a major shift in policy, and it's hard to see what, besides a desperate desire to win the election, could have inspired it.