New immigration policy to reduce deportations
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Is it amnesty or a common sense way to concentrate on deporting the most dangerous criminals?
That's the debate shaping up over the Obama administration's new policy towards illegal immigrants.
The new policy would allow about 300 thousand illegal immigrants to apply for work permits--if they have clean records other than being in the country illegally.
The administration says the policy should help free up immigration courts to deport violent criminals and drug offenders.
The policy instantly drew supporters and critics.
The administration says it's a matter of setting priorities for limited resources with a policy change to allow illegal immigrants who are otherwise law abiding, long time residents to avoid deportation and apply for work permits so the government can apply more effort to deporting the most dangerous criminals.
Jennifer Allen of Border Action Network says the policy would apply to people who have been here many years, and have been positive members of the community.
"The President is recognizing it simply does not make sense for this country to be removing children who have grown up and know this country better than they know any other country; or removing the spouses of active duty military, certain service men and women."
Governor Brewer quickly issued a statement that says, in part: "This plan amounts to backdoor amnesty for hundreds of thousands--if not millions--of illegal aliens."
Attorney Margo Cowan has been representing young people whose parents brought them from Mexico when they were children. They have been working for the DREAM Act for a path to citizenship if they go to college or serve in the US Military.
Cowan says, "The fact of the matter is our immigration courts are clogged and they can't speedily remove people who really are a danger to the United States. And so, the purpose of this program I think is to put people in front of immigration judges that don't have any relief and that really don't have a reason to stay. The flip side of that is it takes people out of the removal proceedings that should never be there in the first place, people like DREAM Act students who have been here since they were infants."
Border ranchers worry the policy will encourage more illegal crossings.
Patrick Bray, the President of the Arizona Cattlemens Association says, "The immigration debate is a side issue as far as border security is concerned. However, when they start to make moves like this one through the Department of Homeland Security it makes us very nervous because we have not seen a significant change on that border and we still see criminals crossing everyday with Ak-47s and we think the administration should take that much more serious before how to deal with illegal immigrants within the country.">
Congressman Raul Grijalva praised the move as an appropriate priority towards deporting dangerous felons instead of people he describes as hard working residents who contribute to our society.
Some other members of Congress are very critical, they see it as the President circumventing the law.
The administration says they're using a part of the President's executive authority to exercise discretion on this issue.