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Immigration reform rally at the White House Under the new policy, illegal immigrants under 30 who arrived before age 16 can remain in the country for at least two more years. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / MCT / Newscom)

Young Immigrants Allowed to Stay

President Obama halts the deportation of many illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were kids

By Laura Leigh Davidson | null null , null
<p>President Obama’s order is similar to part of the proposed DREAM Act. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / MCT / Newscom)</p>

President Obama’s order is similar to part of the proposed DREAM Act. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / MCT / Newscom)

Thousands of young illegal immigrants in the United States now have a reason to come out of hiding. President Barack Obama has initiated a new policy allowing people younger than 30, who came to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16, to stay in the country without fear of being deported for at least two years.

An illegal immigrant is a person who enters a country without the permission of that country's government, or who stays beyond the term of his or her visa. (A visa is a legal document that allows someone to enter, leave, or stay in a country for a specific period of time.)

Most illegal immigrants keep their immigration status a secret. They do this because they can be deported (sent back to the country where they came from) at any time, regardless of how long they have lived in the U.S.

Many young illegal immigrants were brought to the U.S. by their parents. Until now, the U.S. government treated them no differently than people who knowingly broke the law by entering the country without the proper legal arrangements.

In late June, President Obama issued an executive order to change America’s deportation practices. An executive order is an order given by the President that has the power of a law.

Now, if young immigrants have been in the U.S. continuously for at least five years, are successful students or have served in the military, have no serious criminal record, and do not pose a security threat, they can apply for work permits and stay in the country without fear of deportation for at least two years.

“It makes no sense to expel talented young people who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans,” Obama said when announcing the change in policy.

HOPE FOR PERMANENT RESIDENCE?

An estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants live and work in the United States. With so many undocumented people living in the country, most politicians agree that the problem needs to be addressed. But they disagree on how to solve it.

Congress has been debating a new law called the DREAM Act since it was proposed in 2010. If passed, the law would make citizenship a possibility for people who arrived in the U.S. illegally before they were 16 years old. Anyone 15 to 35 years old who has earned a high school diploma and has no criminal record could apply. If approved, he or she would then have to complete either two years of college or military service as part of a long road to legal citizenship.

President Obama’s order effectively allows the biggest part of the DREAM Act to stand for two years without the approval of Congress. This two-year period will give Congress more time to compromise on and pass some version of the DREAM Act, giving more young illegal immigrants the potential to legally stay, work, and live in the United States.

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