The Obama administration has announced that it will grant deferred action to certain young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors, but the long-term fate of those who qualify is still uncertain, even if it's less precarious than it has been so far.
In President Obama's speech at the White House this afternoon, he said, "This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It is not a permanent fix."
What did Obama mean by this? For starters the move, which Obama characterized in the speech as a "stop-gap" measure, is not necessarily a permanent one. Deferred action is just that, the deferment of removal action, or deportation. It is not a path to permanent legal status, let alone citizenship, nor does it "legalize" anyone as some headlines have misstated.
Here is how deferred action is described on the Homeland Security website:
Deferred action does not confer lawful status upon an individual. In addition, although an alien granted deferred action will not be considered to be accruing unlawful presence in the United States during the period deferred action is in effect, deferred action does not absolve individuals of any previous or subsequent periods of unlawful presence.
Under existing regulations, an individual who has been granted deferred action is eligible to receive employment authorization for the period of deferred action, provided he or she can demonstrate “an economic necessity for employment.” Deferred action can be terminated at any time at the agency’s discretion or renewed by the agency.
How will the new directive work? It's complicated. I posted an explanation directly to the KPCC website a short while ago under The Latest, which dissects the nitty-gritty details.