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Illegal immigrants may be able to stay in US

August 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a possible reprieve for tens of thousands of illegal immigrants facing deportation. The Obama administration says many could be allowed to stay in the U.S.

The administration says undocumented students and other low-priority immigration offenders will not be targeted for removal.

For UCLA student Ernesto Zumaya, whose mother brought him to California from Mexico when he was 1-year-old, it could be an answer to his prayers. But he says he's skeptical.

"It's mixed feelings because I believe we are moving toward the right direction of addressing immigration," said Zumaya. "But unfortunately everything has just been rhetoric from the president."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the policy change, saying it will free up resources for other safety priorities.

That includes removing convicted criminals and those who might be a national security or public safety threat.

However the move is drawing fire from critics who compare it to administrative amnesty. Republicans claim the Obama administration is ignoring the law.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform released a statement: "Never in the history of federal immigration enforcement has an administration willfully and so egregiously usurped Congress and the people's role to decide immigration issues."

"They should earn it, there shouldn't be amnesty," said Westwood resident Mitja Hinderks. "People should earn the right to become citizens by one means or another."

One senior administration official says the review process will not give illegal immigrants a direct path to legal permanent residency, but they can apply for work permits.

For Zumaya, who's set to graduate this year, it would allow him to legally contribute to the country he loves. And he knows he's not alone.

"My story isn't unique," said Zumaya. "There are thousands of undocumented youth in the position I am."

The administration says that there are approximately 300,000 illegal immigrants clogging the immigration courts. They say they will now undergo a case-by-case review.

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