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Obama plan to review deportation cases stokes heated debate

August 19, 2011 |  9:36 pm

Secure Communities

The Obama administration's plan to review the cases of 300,000 illegal immigrants currently in deportation proceedings to identify "low-priority" offenders has sparked a debate in Washington and beyond.

Officials said that by launching the case-by-case review, they are refocusing deportation efforts on convicted felons and other "public safety threats." Those who have not committed crimes could be allowed to remain in the U.S.

The move was cheered by some illegal immigrants, notably college students who have been pushing Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would allow them to stay in the country, as well as supporters of the legislation.

Senate Democrats working for immigration reform welcomed the new policy. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) , said it would "alleviate some of the pressure on our broken immigration system." Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), coauthor of the Dream Act bill that would grant a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrant students, described the policy as "a fair and just way to deal with an important group of immigrant students."

Jon Feere, a legal analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, which has sought tougher restrictions on immigration, said the new policy was "an effort by President Obama to appeal to some Latino voters, but the overwhelming majority of Americans want strong enforcement."

Critics labeled the plan a "blanket amnesty" for a large group of illegal immigrants.
Several Republicans, including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, came out against the plan Friday.
"This plan amounts to back-door amnesty for hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of illegal aliens," Brewer said in a statement. "We need to remind President Obama that we elected a president that serves beneath the law and did not anoint a king that is above the law." 

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-- Christopher Goffard and Paloma Esquivel

Photo: Demonstrators at an L.A. news conference last week show their support for speakers denouncing Secure Communities, a program that uses fingerprints gathered by local and state police to aid federal authorities in identifying criminals to be deported. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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