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US to stop deportation of young illegal immigrants

US President Barack Obama has announced the US will stop the deportation of some illegal immigrant children. Obama said the change would become effective immediately to "lift the shadow of deportation from these young people."

"Let's be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix," Obama said. "This is the right thing to do."

According to the US government, the change will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants currently in the US. The announcement partially achieves the goals of the "DREAM Act", proposed legislation that aimed to provide a pathway to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who went to college or served in the military.

Obama said the change provides hope "to talented, driven, patriotic young people" and makes the nation's immigration system "more fair, more efficient, and more just."

Under the newly announced plan, illegal immigrants will now be able to avoid deportation if they can prove the following:
  • They were brought to the US before they turned 16 years old and are younger than 30 years old,
  • They have been in the US for at least five continuous years,
  • They have no criminal history, and
  • They graduated from a US high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.

Applicants can also apply for a work permit that will last for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.

"These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper," said Obama.

"Ending deportations of innocent young people who have the potential to drive tomorrow's economy is long overdue, as are many commonsense reforms needed to center our immigration policy around our economic needs," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

However, not everyone agreed with the changes, specifically Republican lawmakers, who accused Obama of circumventing Congress in an effort to boost his political standing as the US presidential elections approach.

"President Obama and his administration once again have put partisan politics and illegal immigrants ahead of the rule of law and the American people," Representative Lamar Smith of Texas and GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that he didn't fully agree with Obama's decision because he wants to find a "long-term solution" to the problem.

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