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DHS Will Stop Deporting DREAMers; Obama Says It’s ‘The Right Thing to Do’

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President Barack Obama announced at a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House Friday, that the Department of Homeland Security would stop deporting young undocumented students who would have been eligible to take advantage of the failed 2010 DREAM Act, calling the shift in immigration policy "the right thing to do" for the economy, for those who were brought to this country through no fault of their own, and for the values Americans hold dearest.

“Put yourself in their shoes,” said Obama at the press conference held in the Rose Garden at the White House. “Imagine you have done everything right your entire life…only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about with a language that you may not even speak.”

“These young people are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” said the president."They pledge allegiance to our flag, play in our neighborhoods, serve in our military, start new businesses that hire Americans, and provide steady labor to farmers and ranchers."

The immigration policy shift could potentially benefit close to 1 million undocumented youth– including those already going through deportation proceedings– but only those who would have qualified for a path to citizenship under the DREAM Act will now be able to apply for a two-year legal status. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30, have lived in the US for 5 years, have come to the US before age 16, not be a threat to national security, and be in school, graduated, or a veteran. The new policy would also allow undocumented youth to work legally in the United States.

Conservatives claim Obama is politicizing the issue, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) accused the President of “ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress” to implement a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Obama (somewhat) agreed.

"Let's be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship," said Obama, "This is not a permanent fix. … This is a temporary stopgap measure." Obama called out Congress for not passing the DREAM Act and giving relief to undocumented young people sooner: “In the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system, what we have tried to do is focus our immigration enforcement resources in the right places,” such as more border security and deporting criminals rather than students.

Obama encouraged Americans to empathize with the plight of undocumented students: “These kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments," he said. “We are a better nation than one that expels innocent kids."

On a press call with reporters this morning, Secretary Janet Napolitano of Homeland Security said of the "deferred" deportations, "Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner, 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," Napolitano said."Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”

In the face of aggressive interruptions by Neil Monro of conservative news website The Daily Caller, Obama stayed on message:

This is the right thing to do for the American people, and here's why…These young people are going to make extraordinary contributions and are already making contributions to our society. If there's a young person here who has grown up here and wants to contribute to this society, wants to maybe start a business that will create jobs … that's the right thing to do.

Obama pledged not to give up on this fight to clear a pathway to citizenship for the young and undocumented who plan to contribute to the nation as long as he is President, “not only because it’s the right thing to do for our economy—and CEOs agree with me—not just because it’s the right thing to do for our security, but because it’s the right thing to do period.”

"We have always drawn strength from being a nation of immigrants, as well as a nation of laws. That's going to continue. My hope is that Congress recognizes that and gets behind this effort."

Emily Crockett is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @emilycrockett.

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