The Obama administration is to stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the US as children and have since led law-abiding lives.
The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration immigration policies and a record number of deportations last year.
The policy change, announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation.
It bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.
The move comes in an election year in which the Hispanic vote could be critical in marginal states like Colorado, Nevada and Florida that could go either Republican or Democratic.
While President Barack Obama enjoys support from a majority of Hispanic voters, Latino enthusiasm for the president has been tempered by the slow economic recovery, his inability to win congressional support for a broad overhaul of immigration laws and by his administration's aggressive deportation policy.
www.dhs.gov/(Department of Homeland Security)