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New US rules shield illegal immigrants from deportation

Posted at | Updated as of 08/16/12 5:31 PM

President Barack Obama's administration announced on June 15 it would relax U.S. deportation rules so that many young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children can stay in the country and work.

The changes went into effect on Wednesday. The change would allow illegal immigrants who, among other criteria, are aged 15-30 and have not been convicted of a felony to apply for work permits. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the program is meant not as amnesty but to establish more efficient immigration policy.

Congress has considered similar immigration changes in recent years but has been unable to agree on a policy. As a result, the Obama administration has relied on executive branch actions to shape immigration rules.

President Barack Obama has supported a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to the United States as children, although the new policy would not go that far. His administration also has stepped up enforcement of deportation rules.

Following are some of the positions Obama has articulated and changes his administration has enacted.

* 2008: Obama, as a presidential candidate, supports a path to legal status for illegal immigrants. At the same time, Obama says illegal immigrants must go to the back of the line, behind people who arrived legally, for the chance to become citizens.

* April 2009: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shifts its enforcement strategy away from large work-site raids.

* June 2010: U.S. officials prioritize the removal of individuals who pose a threat to national security or public safety, recent entrants and people who are fugitives.

* December 2010: Legislation known as the DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrants to seek citizenship if they attended college or served in the U.S. military, fails in a Senate vote during the post-midterm election lame-duck session of Congress. Earlier in the year, it passed the House of Representatives.

* June 2011: ICE issues memo establishing prosecutorial discretion, which allows deportation officials to consider circumstances of arrival in the United States, educational accomplishments and other factors in determining whether to deport an individual.

* August 2011: Obama administration says it will review the status of all immigrants in deportation proceedings to reduce backlog, focus on higher-priority cases and speed expulsion of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.

* June 2012: Secretary Napolitano announces that young people who were brought to the United States through no fault of their own as children and meet several key criteria will be eligible for exemption from deportation for at least two years, subject to renewal. The new policy applies to those aged 15-30 who arrived in the United States before June 15, 2007, have graduated or are currently in school, or are veterans of the Coast Guard and Armed Forces, and are not convicted felons.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers details of changes in the U.S. immigration enforcement system in this fact sheet posted here: http://www.dhs.gov/news/2012/06/15/fact-sheet-transforming-immigration-enforcement-system (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)