WASHINGTON — President Obama took a historic, legacy-defining step Thursday night when he announced a plan to protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, infuriating Republicans but satisfying immigrants who have fought for years for such relief.
The president’s plan will allow undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, known as green card holders, to legally live and work in the country for a period of three years. He expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children who are eligible for protected status.
The plan makes it easier for foreign workers trained in high-tech fields to enter, and stay in, the country. And it refocuses the nation’s entire immigration enforcement apparatus on a much smaller pool of immigrants — those with criminal records, ties to terrorist organizations or gangs and people who crossed the border in the past year.
“Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability — a common-sense, middle-ground approach,” Obama said from the East Room of the White House. “If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.”
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