Some illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as young children will be exempt from deportation and eligible to apply for American jobs, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced Friday.
Speaking at the White House Rose Garden Friday afternoon, President Obama said the young immigrants covered by the policy change have grown up as part of their American communities and sometimes aren't aware they're in the country illegally until they apply for a job, driver's license or college.
"They are Americans in their heart, their minds, in every single way but one -- on paper," Obama said. "Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you've done everything right your entire life, only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country you know nothing about with a language you may not even speak."
Here's the criteria:
1. Came to the United States under the age of 16.
2. Have continuously lived in the United States for a least five years prior to June 15, 2012 and are currently live in the U.S.
3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from United States military service.
4. Have not been convicted of a felony, 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 30.
Young illegal immigrants who meet these 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.
"Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner," said Secretary Napolitano. "But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here."
Individuals will not be eligible if they are currently outside of the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the U.S. for at least five years immediately preceding June 15, 2012.
USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within the next 60 days.
Beginning Monday, June 18, people with questions can also call the USCIS hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE's hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours.
For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of ICE's ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.