Obama lifts deportation threat for 800,000 young illegal immigrants

President builds on support among Hispanic voters in swing states with shock announcement

President Barack Obama said yesterday that he is lifting the threat of deportation from young illegal immigrants in the United States who have completed their educations or served in the US military, a move that should solidify support for him among Hispanic voters in key swing states this November such as Florida and Arizona.

The surprise announcement will scramble the lines of the deeply contentious debate over immigration policy in the run-up to the presidential election. While Mr Obama is far more popular among Latinos than his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, he has nonetheless disappointed them by failing to push immigration reform through Congress and by overseeing a level of enforced deportations not seen since the Fifties.

"It makes no sense to expel talented young people who for all intents and purpose are Americans, have been raised as Americans, understand themselves as part of this country," Mr Obama said in the Rose Garden, adding that he would be "lifting the shadow of deportation from these young people". Mr Obama showed a flash of anger after being heckled by an individual with a temporary press pass.

It is the first time that a president has essentially said that immigrants who were brought into the country illegally can nonetheless stay without harassment and work freely. He insisted it did not mean "amnesty" for the roughly 800,000 young people who will be affected by it. He said the US Congress should still act to pass long-term reform.

For Mr Romney, the manoeuvre creates a headache. To his right he has conservatives who are demanding that he take an even tougher line on immigration than he has already, many of whom were quick last night to condemn Mr Obama's initiative. To do so, however, would risk killing off whatever little Hispanic support he may have.

Sidelined to an extent meanwhile, is Senator Marco Rubio, a possible vice- presidential pick for the Republicans, who had been working on draft legislation for Congress that would have looked similar to the order issued by Mr Obama yesterday. Earlier efforts by Democrats to push through something called the Dream Act that would have offered a legal path for young illegal immigrants to stay ended in failure.

The issue made the front cover of Time magazine this week which featured a crowd of immigrants including Jose Antonio Vargas, a Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning, Filipino journalist. It revealed that in June 2011 he was in the United States illegally.

Part of the anger among conservatives on Capitol Hill will stem from Mr Obama bypassing Congress to introduce these changes. "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, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said.

The White House is essentially telling the judiciary to defer enforcing the existing laws for a pool of young people who were brought into the US illegally before the age of 16 and are now younger than 30.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk