Young people who are in the country illegally will avoid deportation and get work permits under an order announced by the Department of Homeland Security on Friday.
People who were brought to the United States before they turned 16, have resided in the country continuously for five years, recently graduated high school or have a GED, are eligible for the waiver from being removed from the country, according to a statement from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
People who fall under this criteria must also have no criminal convictions on their records and be younger than 30.
“As a general matter, these individuals lacked the intent to violate the law and our ongoing review of pending removal cases is already offering administrative closure to many of them,” Napolitano said in her statement.
She said the country’s immigration laws are not designed to be blanketed over every situation blindly and that they are not designed to remove people who may be born elsewhere but only know America. “Indeed, many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways,” she said. “Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
Napolitano added that the U.S. government will excercise its discretion on “low prioritity” individuals who may have been placed in removal proceedings. For those who are already in removal proceedings, ICE will still exercise prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis, and can defer action for up to a renewable two years. The agency will also allow the individuals who feel they meet the criteria to identify themselves. For those granted a deferment, ICE and USCIS will accept applications for work permits during the two year period.
President Obama is expected to speak on the matter Friday afternoon.