Hispanic leaders and advocates for immigrants are praising President Obama for the administration's decision to keep illegal youth out of deportation proceedings. However, Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and others accuse the president of backtracking on immigration reform and imposing "backdoor amnesty."
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says he and other leaders applaud the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) and the Department of Justice's (DOJ) decision on Thursday to review the nearly 300,000 cases currently pending before the immigration court and prioritize cases based on those convicted of serious crimes and/or are national security risks.
The soon-to-be-developed guidelines will consider a person's ties and contributions to the community, family relationships and military service record to determine who can qualify as low-risk illegal immigrant. Low-priority cases will be kept "out of the deportation pipeline" according to the White House.
"We applaud and commend the president for taking the appropriate steps in ensure that we are not extracting from these communities the very future viability and success that lies embedded in the young men and women who stand committed to the values that we hold near and dear," Rodriguez told The Christian Post.
The decision, he says, recognizes that young immigrants who came to America as babies have talents that can enrich America, and they should not be deported like criminals.
"It's the right American thing to do and it's the right Christian thing to do," Rodriguez said of the decision.
Gov. Brewer, however, accuses the president of backpedaling.
"Just last month, in speaking to the National Council of La Raza, President Obama rejected the idea of bypassing Congress and imposing immigration reform.”
Brewer quoted Obama as saying, "Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. And believe me, right now dealing with Congress, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting ... But that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions."
She said of the president's flip-flop, "President Obama got it right last month and got it really wrong today."
White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Munoz says the president is still committed to fixing the nation's immigration issue with the Congress, but noted, "the president has a responsibility to enforce the existing laws in a smart and effective manner."
The American Immigration Lawyers Association explained that DHS will still be working in line with its previous priorities as it develops department-wide guidance to establish which immigrants will be consider high-priority in deportation proceedings.
AILA President Eleanor Pelta says she is pleased with the announcement.
"We applaud DHS for recognizing that much more needs to be done to ensure that enforcement resources are targeting those who would do us harm, and not students, mothers, churchgoers, and taxpayers," Pelta stated.
However, the Federation for American Immigration Reform says the policy decision is "administrative amnesty" for people who are in the country illegally and a "usurpation of Congress's constitutional authority."
"This step by the White House amounts to a complete abrogation of the President's duty to enforce the laws of the land," FAIR president Dan Stein said in a statement.
He noted the Obama administration's past efforts to overturn state immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama, and in some cases, its refusal to enforce some immigration laws as in the case of illegal immigrants married to same-sex partners.
Neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions are legally recognized federally because of the Defense of Marriage Act. The act defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman for the purpose of federal law.
Yet the DOJ intervened in May in the deportation case of a Venezuelan man joined to an American man in a civil union after the administration announced that it would no longer defend DOMA's constitutionality.
"[Thursday's] policy announcement clearly demonstrates the Obama administration's defiance of both the constitutional separation of powers and the will of the American public in its relentless effort to gain amnesty for illegal aliens," said Stein.
Brewer agrees that policy provides "backdoor amnesty" for many illegal immigrants and charges, "The president is encouraging more illegal immigration at the exact moment we need federal focus on the border security."
Mexico is currently embroiled in a bloody drug war near the U.S. border.
Rev. Rodriguez fired back, "Those of ilk of Jan brewer will never be satisfied with anything that facilitates a pathway to integration."
Despite his full support of the policy change, Rodriguez said the president must still reform current immigration laws to deal with the 12 million immigrants currently living in the United States illegally. Rodriguez also said Obama must seek to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act with congressional support.