The Obama administration made an end run around Congress directly into the arms of Latino voters, saying it would stop deporting illegal immigrants under 30 who came to the United States before they turned 16.
Latinos overwhelmingly back the president over Mitt Romney, but the Obama campaign is concerned about how many will turn up at the polls amid disenchantment over Obama’s failure to press for comprehensive immigration reform and his relatively aggressive use of deportation thus far.
Congress has refused to pass the DREAM Act, which would have created a path toward citizenship for young illegal immigrants who have gone to college or served in the military.
Obama’s move does not specifically create an avenue toward citizenship, but by not deporting young illegal immigrants, it sets them up for eventually becoming citizens once the laws have changed to allow them to do so.
Obama will speak about the new policy at 1:15 pm ET from the Rose Garden, and I will live stream it for you here.
When Obama speaks, he will be Sen. Mark Rubio (R-Fla.) to the punch. Rubio is supposedly working on something similar to what Obama is announcing today, but has failed to release a concrete proposal.
Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano – who made the announcement this morning – have previously suggested they were legally prevented from making today’s move, according to the Washington Times.
Mr. Obama has been under pressure for years to take this step, but he had repeatedly said he didn’t have the authority.
“The fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce. And I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the Dream Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true,” Mr. Obama said last year.
And Ms. Napolitano last year specifically rejected the kind of categorical move she made on Friday, telling senators she only had the authority to examine cases individually.
Today, Napolitano was humming a different tune, according to a statement from DHS.
“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language.
Obama will address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ annual conference in Orlando, Fla. next Friday. Romney will appear before the group Thursday.