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, reports the Associated Press. 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 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. Under the plan, illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.