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Good policy and good politics

President Obama announced Friday that his administration will stop deportations of hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants brought to the country as children.

The action applies to illegal immigrants age 30 or below who:

• came to the United States under the age of sixteen;

• have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years;

• are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of US armed forces;

• have not been convicted of a felony or a significant misdemeanor.

“This is not amnesty,” Obama declared. “This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely, while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is the right thing to do.”

Two examples of such young people are Noheli Carrasco and Heydi Mejia.

Not only is this the right thing to do, it will likely boost support for Obama among Hispanic voters– although I suppose some Republicans will try to pit legal immigrants against illegal immigrants.

Obama’s Republican opponent Mitt Romney said:

“I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault of their own is an important matter to be considered and it should be solved on a long-term basis so they know what their future will be in this country.

“I think the action that the president took today makes it more difficult to reach that long-term solution.”

Of course when Republicans in Congress had the chance to reach a long-term solution– in the form of the DREAM Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military– they overwhelmingly rejected it.

Earlier this year Romney suggested the solution to illegal immigration was “self-deportation.” In fact some immigrants are doing that, although I’m sure it has little to do with Romney’s advice.

Update: Some readers have questioned the constitutionality of Obama’s action. Commenter violet cites the Supreme Court’s 1985 decision in the case of Heckler v. Chaney, which states:

“[A]n agency’s decision not to prosecute or enforce, whether through civil or criminal process, is a decision generally committed to an agency’s absolute discretion.”