HOUSTON - President Barack Obama's administration announced Friday that it will stop deporting some young people who came to America as children of undocumented immigrants.
Obama said undocumented immigrants will avoid deportation and be eligible for work permits if they arrive in the United States before age 16, are younger than 30, have been in the United States for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, have graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the U.S. military.
Mauro Arbolbda, 25, came to the United States as an illegal immigrant 10 years ago. He graduated from high school, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston and now holds a full-time job.
Arbolbda said he has dealt will immigration issues first-hand. He said police once detained him because of his illegal status.
He said he is excited by Obama's move.
"It's a joy," Arbolbda said. "I'm happy for all the young kids who are going to school and see hope in the future."
The policy has drawn criticism.
"How can the Administration justify allowing illegal immigrants to work in the U.S. when millions of Americans are unemployed? President Obama and his administration once again have put partisan politics and illegal immigrants ahead of the rule of law and the American people, " U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith posted on his website.
Arbolbda said and other groups who support immigration reform wanted to send a different message.
"They're working really hard to earn that path to citizenship," Arbolbda said. "Nobody is asking for a free ride or an easy way."
The policy is expected to affect as many as 800,000 immigrants and could likely boost Obama's rating with Hispanic voters.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry released a statement regarding the announcement.
"The Obama Administration's election-year tactic to bypass Congress and arbitrarily grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants is another example of its blatant disregard for our Constitution, our rule of law and our democratic process. The laws of this nation are not open to selective, convenient or political interpretation; they are the very foundation of our freedom, and the protections they guarantee make our nation strong and attractive to immigrants around the world - millions of whom abide by our laws and processes and seek legal entry.
"These are decisions that should be thoroughly debated within the halls of Congress.
"This Administration has failed to provide a secure border, which is essential to national security, and is instead granting blanket amnesty to those who have broken our laws. Failed border security and immigration policies have created a magnet for those who came in the first place. It's clear President Obama prefers to upend the rule of law, picking winners and losers, rather than work with Congress and the American people on a sustainable, long-term solution."
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