(CNSNews.com) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that the administration’s new program for young illegal immigrants is “not amnesty” despite the fact that it will remove them from the deportation process.
The program, announced Friday, would grant as many as 800,000 younger illegal immigrants immunity from deportation and allow them to qualify for federal work permits.
“The granting of deferred action under this new directive will not provide an individual with permanent lawful status and it will not provide a pathway to obtaining permanent lawful status or citizenship,” Napolitano said in Friday morning conference call with reporters.
“This grant of deferred action is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” Napolitano said. “It is an exercise of discretion so that these young people are not in the removal system.”
However, on the same conference call, senior administration officials told reporters that the program would “eliminate” qualifying illegals from the “universe of people subject to immigration enforcement.”
“Individuals who meet this criteria will not be placed in removal [deportation] proceedings and will not be removed [deported] from the United States,” the official said. The concept, of course, being that by eliminating this pool of individuals from the universe of people subject to immigration enforcement we can focus our resources on individuals we want to focus on.”
The program would grant immunity from deportation to illegal immigrants who meet each of five new categories
-- Illegally entered the United States when they were under 16 years old;
-- Have continually resided in the United States for at least five years;
-- Are currently in school, have graduated from a U.S. high school, obtained a GED, or has been honorably discharged from the military or Coast Guard;
-- Have not been convicted of a felony or “serious misdemeanor,” multiple misdemeanors, or are a threat to public safety or national security;
-- Is under the age of 30;
Illegal immigrants who meets those criteria will be immune from deportation for two years based on what Napolitano called Homeland Security’s use of prosecutorial discretion.
But the two-year grant of “deferred action” is renewable indefinitely, and during that time illegal immigrants may apply for federal permits that allow them to work legally in the United States.
Senior administration officials also made clear that the grants of immunity would be valid even if Mitt Romney wins the White House in November.
“A two-year grant of deferred action is a two-year grant of deferred action,” the official said.