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Why some illegal immigrants aren't celebrating Obama’s new policy (+video)

Some young illegal immigrants remain skeptical that President Obama's new policy, which could give renewable US work permits to 800,000 immigrants, will actually work.

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The Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, essentially acknowledge that in a press release. “Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.”

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Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano brushed off Republican charges that the policy is simply amnesty by another name. “It is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” Napolitano said. The shift is “well within the framework of existing laws.”

Political implications

No matter how the policy is implemented, the policy itself could reinvigorate a Latino voting bloc that has lost patience in Obama. While Obama has a 2-to-1 edge in support among Latinos, the Obama campaign has been concerned that only half of all eligible Latino voters – and an even greater proportion of young Latinos – are registered to vote in the November election.

“This is a shift from the president saying that his hands are tied and he has to work with Congress to a president that has become more forceful and a stronger leader on the immigration issue,” says Matt Barretto, a political scientist who studies Latino issues at the University of Washington in Seattle. “This highlights the disconnect with Republicans … and will be viewed with great enthusiasm in the Latino community."

"It will further push Latinos in the Democrat column” in a year when “Latino turnout and enthusiasm has a huge ability to impact the [election] results,” he adds.

Obama's order is similar in scope and intent to the DREAM Act, an immigration bill that Republicans defeated in 2010. The act would provide a path to citizenship to the same immigrants targeted for deferrals in Friday's announcement. A poll released last week by Latino Decisions shows 87 percent of US Latinos in favor of a DREAM Act-like policy of citizenship for young undocumented residents. It’s a winner among non-Latinos, too, with 63 percent of Americans supporting the idea.

Critics dismiss both the DREAM Act and Obama's executive order. “The DREAM Act has been a marketing gimmick all along, and it’s still being used as a marketing gimmick,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative-leaning think tank. “Eventually Charlie figures out Lucy is going to pull the football, and the DREAM Act kids are figuring that out finally as well.”

Still, Obama's move will put pressure on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who called for tougher border enforcement and “self-deportation” by illegal immigrants during the primaries, but has begun more serious Hispanic outreach and is mulling potential policy prescriptions. Next week, both he and Obama are scheduled to address Hispanic leaders.

One Romney option is to back Sen. Marco Rubio’s effort to pass a watered-down DREAM Act. Rico, for one, is intrigued by what Romney might do. 

Romney "might not be that bad," he says. “I think Romney has a really good chance if he pulls through and gives us something where things actually change.”

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