Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Obama to grant 'deferred action,' work permits to some young undocumented immigrants

Undocumented students and their supporters protest in federal office building in Los Angeles, October 12, 2011
Undocumented students and their supporters protest in federal office building in Los Angeles, October 12, 2011
Photo by Corey Moore/KPCC

The Obama administration announced this morning that it is granting deferred action to undocumented young people who meet certain criteria, and will even give them work permits. Is it a big deal? Definitely. The move could affect hundreds of thousandsof young people who came to the United States as minors and have been unable to adjust their immigration status.

It's also interesting in terms of election-year political timing, with the Obama administration getting unfavorable reviews lately over its ongoing deportation case reviews, which have yielded relief for very few immigrants so far, just over 4,000 out of roughly 300,000 cases. And the fact that two Republican lawmakers have been floating proposals that could keep some undocumented college students and military hopefuls in the country has likely played a part also.

I'll be posting more details later, but here are a few basics from Homeland Security Janet Napolitano's announcement today. First, those who benefit will be "certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings," according to a DHS news release. "Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization."

One translation: They can stay legally and work legally, but it doesn't mean these young people are being granted permanent legal status, as the action allowing them to stay is subject to renewal. This is similar to the way in which those who have been spared deportation so far under the Obama administration's prosecutorial discretion reviews are being allows to stay.

Today's DHS announcement listed the criteria for those who will be eligible for "an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case-by-case basis:"

1.) Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;

2.) Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;

3.) Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

4.) Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;

5.) Are not above the age of thirty.

It adds that only "those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date."

And as with the deportation reviews, these deferred action requests are to be decided on a case-by-case basis and "DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted." Implementation of the application process is to begin within 60 days.

Stay tuned for more details and reactions on this site later. In the meantime, feel free to post your own reactions below.

And listen to audio of an updated report from KPCC's Ruxandra Guidi: