By the CNN Wire Staff
Starting Wednesday, people who arrived in the United States as children and without documentation can apply to work without fear of deportation, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Tuesday.
"This afternoon, USCIS makes available online the forms and instructions for individuals who will request deferred action for childhood arrivals," USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters in a conference call.
The announcement comes two months after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that people who arrived in the United States as children may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years subject to renewal, and would then be eligible for work authorization.
The program, dubbed Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created in June under an executive order signed by President Barack Obama.
"Deferred action does not provide lawful status or a pathway to permanent residence or citizenship," Mayorkas said Tuesday.
The $465 application fee will fund the administrative costs of the program, including a biometric check and issuance of a secure work-authorization document, he said.
Each request will be examined for possible fraud, he said.
The forms and instructions are posted at www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals.
As many as 1.7 million youths may qualify for the program, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.
When he signed the order in June, Obama said the changes will make immigration policy "more fair, more efficient and more just."
The shift on the politically volatile issue of immigration policy has elicited praise from Latino leaders, while Republicans reacted with outrage, saying the move amounts to amnesty - a negative buzzword among conservatives - and usurps congressional authority.
"This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," Obama said. "This is a temporary stopgap measure."
Noting children of illegal immigrants "study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, befriend our kids, pledge allegiance to our flag," Obama said, "it makes no sense to expel talented young people who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans."
The president declared that the policy change is "the right thing to do."
Under the new policy, people younger than 30 who arrived in the United States before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat, and were successful students or served in the military, can get a two-year deferral from deportation and apply for work permits.
Participants must prove they have been living in the country continuously for at least five years.
The change is part of a department effort to target resources at illegal immigrants who pose a greater threat, such as criminals and those trying to enter the country now, Napolitano said.
The move addresses a concern of the Latino community and includes some of the provisions of a Democratic proposal called the DREAM Act that failed to win enough Republican support to gain congressional approval.
Obama has been criticized by Latino leaders for an overall increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants in recent years. Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 396,906 illegal immigrants, the largest number in the agency's history.
Obama and Napolitano have called for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would put into law similar steps for children of illegal immigrants to continue living and working in the country.
Republicans who blocked Democratic efforts to change immigration laws have condemned the move, with some calling it an improper maneuver to skirt congressional opposition.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a GOP foe of Democratic proposals on immigration, threatened in June to sue to stop Obama "from implementing his unconstitutional and unlawful policy."
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has called the decision "a classic Barack Obama move of choosing politics over leadership," while House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has called the change a "decision to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants."
Others predicted the move will tighten an already poor job market for young Americans.
However, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who sponsored the DREAM Act, said it "will give these young immigrants their chance to come out of the shadows and be part of the only country they've ever called home."
Presumed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in June that the issue needs more substantive action than an executive order, which can be replaced by a subsequent president.
As president, Romney said, he would seek to provide "certainty and clarity for people who come into this country through no fault of their own by virtue of the actions of their parents."
Latinos make up the fastest-growing immigrant population in the country, and the Latino vote is considered a crucial bloc for the November presidential election.
A spokeswoman for a major Latino group, the National Council of La Raza, hailed the administration's move.
"In light of the congressional inaction on immigration reform, this is the right step for the administration to take at this time," NCLR spokeswoman Laura Vazquez said in June.
The premise of this policy is that it is impractical and unfeasible to deport all of the illegal immigrants in our country. We also wouldn’t really want to deport them all considering they provide valuable labor. So it seems the most logical solution is to find a way that our country can benefit from what they have to offer. Children brought into the US by their families had no voice in the decision to migrate illegally, so at least giving them the opportunity to give back to this country is better than wasting their potential and encouraging them to be bums if they can’t get hired or go to school.
Congress? We don't need no stinkin' Congress. We have our dictator running things.
So true, so true !
Another act of treason by the federal government how much more treason will the AMERICAN people tolerate ?? These CRIMINALS steal our jobs spit on our laws, drive illegal, no insurance, they steal AMERICAN"S seat's in our class rooms. They refuse to learn English they like a plague of locust on the U.S. !! It seems the federal government does not know the definition of "ILLEGAL" it appears they can break the law and get rewarded for it. TREASON against the AMERICAN people calls for a revolution!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was reading the most of the coments and I say
why the chicken cross the road?
To scare to death the brave americans.
They work hard for less money because they are ILLEGAL.. the day they become legal, they won't work hard or they won't work for you.. they would want benefits, salary and everything..
How ignorant are you to not get this? They have to do this odd jobs because nobody would hire them on paper.. with such amnesty they can apply for the same minium wage legal job that any american teenager can apply. There are less jobs in the market as it is. Now for the same on campus job or intership or a minimum wage job you have 10,000 more people applying.. how is this solving the bigger issues here...
May be not a missed opportunity.. just think that these people willingly giving their information to be entered in a database. How else can you round them up and get their information. I hope there is a bigger plan at work – get their information then deport their behind... it can happen, I am hopeful.
This country is going to the dogs and by that I mean these illgals!!
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