President Obama said today he would allow those brought to this country illegally as children to remain -- and even to work -- drawing fire from Governor Jan Brewer.
In essence, the government will be using its discretion not to pursue those who arrived in this country before turning 16, have no felony record, have resided here continuously for at least five years. They also need to be currently in school, have graduated from high school or be an honorably discharged veteran. And they cannot have turned 30. Those eligible can seek what amounts to a two-year deferment of any prosecution for being in this country illegally, a deferment that is infinitely renewable. The president called it the right thing to do.
"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," The President said. "They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."
And the president said many have no idea they're undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver's license or a college scholarship. Governor Brewer wasted no time in calling her own press conference.
"I felt it necessary to respond to the president's outrageous announcement this morning that he intends to grant back-door amnesty to nearly one million people," Brewer charged. "He says it's temporary. But we all know better."
More to the point, the governor said the announcement comes just days before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on the legality of key provisions of a 2010 law designed to give state and local police a role in apprehending illegal immigrants.
"The crux of SB 1070, of course, is documentation," she said. "And what he has done by his announcement today is he's going to give documentation to nearly a million people that have arrived in our country illegally and not by the rule of law."
Homeland Security officials said they are not providing any documents -- other than work cards to those who are eligible. What will happen is when a police officer stops a suspected illegal immigrant a check will be made with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And if that person is in the deferred prosecution program, the response will be that ICE does not want them and they should be let go. The president himself insisted that all his order does is, in his words, lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.
"Now let's be clear," the President said. "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."
Brewer, however, sees the move as something quite different.
"It doesn't take a cynic to recognize this action for what it is: blatant political pandering by a president desperate to short up his political base," she said.
The Pew Hispanic Center says a survey last year found that Hispanics oppose the deportation policies of the Obama administration by a margin of 59 to 27 percent. And 41 percent of those questioned said they are aware that there have been more immigrants deported each year under the Obama administration than that of his predecessor.