The Obama administration has announced that it will review the cases of more than 300,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation to determine if they can remain in the United States.
In a letter to Congressional lawmakers, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said officials will review each case to identify low priority offenders, including those who have been in the U.S. for a lengthy period, to allow the agency to focus more on deporting convicted criminals and others who pose a threat to public safety.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, has sponsored legislation that would provide an eventual path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants who arrived in the country as children, and he said he welcomes the policy.
However, critics say labeled the plan a blanket amnesty for a large group of illegal immigrants.
Congressional Republicans say the administration is attempting to circumvent Congress, and that the policy amounts to granting blanket or universal forgiveness, or amnesty, for illegal immigrants.
Not so, say certain illegal immigrants, notably college students who have been arguing for Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would allow them to stay in the country.
President Barack Obama's administration has been criticized by immigration advocates for deporting millions of illegal immigrants since taking office in 2009, and for not politicking Congress hard enough to pass a comprehensive immigration reform plan.
Political/Public Policy Analysis: The decision represents a tough call for the Obama administration - sort of a darn if you do, darned if don't issue.
Reviewing files and retaining those individuals who don't represent a risk to public safety runs the risk of being accused of not enforcing current immigration statutes.
On the other hand, no review would have subject the Obama administration to even more amplified criticism from both immigrant rights and human rights groups that it's made immigration a bottom-of-the-agenda issue in its first term.