Talented young illegal immigrants can stay:Obama

Washington: In an election-year policy change, President Barack Obama has said the US will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to young talented illegal immigrants who entered America as children and do not pose a risk to national security or public safety.

The shift on the politically volatile issue of immigration policy prompted immediate praise from Latino leaders who have criticised Congress and the White House for inaction, while Republicans reacted with outrage, saying the move amounts to amnesty — a negative buzz word among conservatives – and usurps congressional authority.

"Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people," Obama said in his remarks to the White House press corps at the Rose Garden.

"Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorisation," he said.

Obama said the changes caused by his executive order will make immigration policy "more fair, more efficient and more just."

"Now, let`s be clear. This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It`s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary, stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is the right thing to do," Obama said in his speech during which he was interrupted a few times by a member of the press.

"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.

They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants, and often have no idea that they`re undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver`s license or a college scholarship," he said.

"Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you`ve done everything right your entire life, studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class, 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," Obama said.

It makes no sense to expel talented young people who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans, he argued.

"They`ve been raised as Americans, understand themselves to be part of this country. To expel these young people who want to staff our labs or start new businesses or defend our country simply because of the actions of their parents or because of the inactions of politicians — in the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system, what we`ve tried to do is focus our immigration enforcement resources in the right places," Obama argued.

"So we prioritise border security, putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history," he said.