WASHINGTON — Administration officials say President Barack Obama is ordering far-reaching changes to U.S. immigration laws that will allow nearly 5 million people, including parents and young people, to avoid deportation.
Millions more will remain in legal limbo, but could ultimately be allowed to stay in the U.S. under new deportation priority guidelines.
Under Obama’s immigration overhaul plan, authorities will now focus enforcement efforts on those immigrants with serious criminal histories, including those who pose a national security or public safety threat or are adult members of a gang. Other priorities include people caught crossing the border illegally or ordered out of the country this year, and those with three or more misdemeanors or “significant” misdemeanors.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House there are three main elements of Obama’s executive action.
- Stronger enforcement of illegal immigration at the border.
- Emphasis on deporting felons, suspected terrorists, violent criminals, gang members and recent boarder crossers.
- Greater accountability for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years and are parents of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents. They will have to register, pass background checks and pay their fair share of taxes. In exchange, individuals may request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for three years.
Despite the sweeping scope of the president’s actions, more than half of the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally will be granted no specific protections. However, Obama’s orders aim to decrease the likelihood that many of them will be deported by ordering the Department of Homeland Security to focus its enforcement on those who have criminal histories or who recently crossed the border.
The president’s decision to act on his own follows months of partisan rancor in Washington over more comprehensive legislation. While the Senate passed a bill last year that would have allowed nearly everyone in the U.S. illegally to pursue a pathway to citizenship, the Republican-led House of Representatives never took up the measure.
Story complied with information from The Associated Press and the White House.