President Obama will explain his administration's decision to allow as many as 800,000 young illegal immigrants to apply for temporary legal status and work permits in a speech in the Rose Garden at 1:15 pm EST.
The sweeping proposal affects immigrants without criminal records who are under 30 years old, entered the country as children, have graduated from a U.S. high school, and can prove they've lived in the country for five consecutive years.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters that she believed the move "is the right thing to do," and will help the agency focus on deporting illegal immigrants who have criminal records. "It is not immunity, it is not amnesty," she said. "It is an exercise of discretion so that these young people are not in the removal system." The plan will not provide citizenship or permanent legal status to applicants, but will lift the fear of deportation. Congressional Republicans, however, disagreed--criticizing the move as an overreach of executive power and an encouragement of more illegal immigration.
Obama previously said that he did not have the power to stop the deportation of young people, and that only Congress could do so. The move may generate enthusiasm among Latinos: 85 percent of registered Latino voters said in a Latino Decisions poll that they support legalizing young immigrants who came to the country as children. The president enjoys a strong lead among Hispanic voters over Mitt Romney, but a lack of enthusiasm among these voters could mean they stay home on Election Day in swing states like Nevada, Colorado and Florida.