MANCHESTER — Two local immigration attorneys and Democrat politicians on Friday praised a new Obama administration policy protecting hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants from deportation, but Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass, R-NH, said the President is trying to do “an end-run” around Congress on the controversial issue.
President Obama announced the new policy Friday in which illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children will be allowed to obtain work permits and be safe from deportation.
The policy will apply to people who are currently no more than 30 years old, arrived in the country before they turned 16 and lived in the United States for five years. They must also have no criminal record and have earned a high school diploma, or a GED, or be in school or have served in the military.
Those whom the policy applies to will be able to apply for a two-year “deferred action” that removes the threat of deportation for up to two years, with repeated extensions.
Obama noted that his new policy could quickly be made permanent if Congress passed the stalled DREAM act, which would provide U.S. residency to immigrants who have a college education or served in the military.
“This is a temporary stop-gap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people,” Obama said. “Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act.”
Bass said the President's actions won't stem illegal immigration.
“While it is unfortunate that the children of illegal immigrants were not the ones that made the decision to break the law by crossing into the United States, the President's decision does nothing to deter future illegal immigration,” Bass said. “There's no question that our current immigration system is broken, but circumventing Congress with a short-term, rather than long-term, policy isn't going to work.”
Government officials said the policy will apply to about 800,000 people.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, said Obama made a sound call in dealing with one aspect of the illegal immigration issue.
“I'm pleased to see our country is taking a step in the right direction,” Shaheen said. “Children who grew up here, were educated here, and who obey our laws should be given a chance to succeed and hopefully one day become full citizens. This is the right thing to do,”
Shaheen said she supports comprehensive immigration reform that better protects U.S. borders.
Ann McLane Kuster, Democrat candidate to challenge Bass in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District, praised the President's action.
“Today's announcement from President Obama represents a very positive step forward. The fact that we will no longer be punishing young immigrants who are here in our country through no fault of their own and are eligible students is a move that we should all be proud of,” Kuster said. “That these children will no longer have to hide in plain sight in the only country they have known as home, represents a very positive change in our immigration policy.”
Kuster was an adoption attorney for 25 years and is a former member of the board of directors of Child and Family Services of New Hampshire.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, said Obama's actions are tied to the November presidential election.
“The timing of this announcement was politically motivated,” Ayotte said. “It doesn't fundamentally fix our broken immigration system and it is likely to make it more difficult to do so.
A Manchester-base immigration attorney said Obama's decision was the right call.
“It makes sense to offer this relief to young people who are our neighbors, attended our schools, speak English, and are law-abiding to bring them out of the shadows to let them become full, productive members of society.” said lawyer George Bruno, a former state Democratic Party chairman and former U.S. Ambassador to Belize during the Clinton administration. “These young people, for the most part, look, act, dress, think, and talk like Americans,”
Fellow Manchester immigration attorney Enrique Mesa said, “While today's announcement is restricted to offering work authorization and deferred action for two years on deporting young people, it is a positive first step in repairing our nation's broken immigration system.”
Guinta said, “the Obama administration is clearly doing an end-run around Congress. The administration is in charge of enforcing our nation's laws; it shouldn't turn a blind eye to them. The proper way to address this serious problem is through the legislative process where all sides come together, not by executive decree.”
(Senior Political Reporter John DiStaso contributed to this report.)