The Obama administration announced Thursday that it would halt deportations of thousands of illegal immigrants who don’t have criminal records and pose no threat to national security.

The new, more relaxed stance on immigration is expected to benefit children most, especially those who came to the U.S. at a young age, graduated from high school and now want to move on to college or serve in the armed forces.

But the policy could have a much broader effect. Now, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano can weed through the hundreds of thousands of cases and excuse them on an individual basis if she deems they pose no threat to public safety. And immigration officials said they would focus on prosecuting only those cases involving criminals and flagrant disregard for immigration laws.

So while the new policy leaves officials with lots of room to improve their practices, it remains to be seen to what extent they will exercise their new freedom. –BF

The New York Times:

The decision would, through administrative action, help many intended beneficiaries of legislation that has been stalled in Congress for a decade. The sponsor of the legislation, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, has argued that “these young people should not be punished for their parents’ mistakes.”

The action would also bolster President Obama’s reputation with Latino voters as he heads into the 2012 election. Just a week ago the leaders of major Hispanic organizations criticized his record, saying in a report that Mr. Obama and Congress had “overpromised and underdelivered” on immigration and other issues of concern to Latino voters, a major force in some swing states.

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