WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are immune from being deported because of a new policy announced by the Obama administration, Friday.
Effective immediately, President Obama said the U.S. will stop deporting and start issuing work permits to certain young illegal immigrants.
It's a move that will effect as many as 800,000 immigrants who will now be eligible to start applying for legal work permits.
Latinos are a powerful voting bloc this presidential election and have grown frustrated with a lack of immigration reform policies coming out of Washington.
Friday's move is seen as Obama's way of gaining favor among the group.
"As long as I'm president, I will not give up on this issue. Not only because it's the right thing to do for our economy ... not just because it's the right thing to do for our security, but because it's the right thing to do period," Obama said, announcing the policy change.
To be considered, illegal immigrants must:
- Have been 16 or younger when they entered the U.S.
- Have lived in the U.S. for at least five years.
- Be in school, graduated high school, or honorably discharged from the Armed Forces.
- Haven't been convicted of any major crimes or pose a threat to national security.
- Be age 30 or younger.
The new policy doesn't lead toward citizenship but will bring certain illegal immigrants out of the shadows, allowing them to receive legal work permits and not live in fear of deportation.
"You know, it's almost like a persecution, they're afraid," immigration rally participant Nathaly Uribe said.
"They have this stress on their minds all throughout their daily lives," Uribe continued. "But having this, now they'll be able to commit more time to be able to further their education and help their family financially."
In many ways, the president's move allows him to implement parts of his DREAM Act legislation by bypassing Congress.
Opponents, like Arizona Rep. David Schweikart called the policy "backdoor amnesty."
"While President Obama asks the Department of Homeland Security to look the other way, I ask him to respect the rule of law and get back to focusing on putting 23 million unemployed Americans back to work," he said.
Immigration will be a major issue in this year's presidential election.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been reworking his message on the subject in hopes of landing Latino support.