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Obama eases restrictions on illegal immigrants

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Sarah Gardner: Immigration policy, front and center today in the White House Rose Garden. President Obama announced his administration will stop deporting young immigrants whose parents brought them to this country illegally as kids. That’s roughly 800,000 young people who could now qualify for temporary work permits.

Here’s President Obama.

Barack Obama: It makes no sense to expel talented young people, who for all intents and purposes are Americans — they’ve been raised as Americans, understand themselves to be part of this country — to expel these people, who want to staff labs or start new business or defend our country, simply because of the actions of their parents.

Critics were quick to label the announcement as a political moved aimed at courting Latino voters. The White House is framing it as a better use of homeland security resources.

Marketplace’s Amy Scott has our story.

Amy Scott: Diego Sanchez came here illegally from Argentina when he nine years old. He’s now a senior at St. Thomas University in Florida. His parents have paid for college with their earnings painting and cleaning houses. Before today, his job options were limited. Now he plans to apply for a work permit.

Diego Sanchez: So once I graduate I’m thinking of pursuing an MBA in international business, and at the same time trying to find some work with a nonprofit organization.

Marielena Hincapié: This is an economic stimulus of sorts.

Marielena Hincapié is executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. She says many of these young immigrants have degrees in engineering, medicine, and law but have had to work under the table in restaurants or as volunteers.

Hincapié: So I think the fact that they now will be able to live in their communities free of deportation but also to contribute to their local, state and national economies is really wonderful for the country.

Critics say the new policy could make it harder for Americans to find work. Mark Kerkorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates tight controls on immigration. He points out the permits are only for two years and could be reversed under a new president. He says that might put off potential employers.

Mark Kerkorian: That really undercuts the predictability, which is really what you need as an employer.

Immigrants like Diego Sanchez say they’d like predictability too. They plan to keep pushing for a permanent solution.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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