Following a significant change in immigration policy announced by the White House on Friday, the leaders of the two nations expected to feel the most direct impact met before the start of the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. It was during this meeting that Mexican President Felipe Calderon thanked President Obama for what he called an “unprecedented” move in halting the deportations of some young illegal immigrants.
“We believe this is very just,” Calderon said, according to an interpreter, adding: “Thank you for the valor and courage that you had in implementing this action. I’m sure many, many families in the United States thank you as well.”
Obama made no new comment on the election-year policy change announced Friday that prompted immediate praise from Latino leaders who have criticized Congress and the White House for inaction on immigration reform.
The move addresses a major concern of the Hispanic community and mimics some of the provisions of a Democratic proposal called the DREAM Act that has failed to win enough Republican support to gain congressional approval.
Obama has been criticized by Hispanic-American leaders for an overall increase in deportations of illegal aliens in recent years. Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 396,906 illegal immigrants, the largest number in the agency’s history.
Friday’s policy change is expected to potentially affect 800,000 people, according to at least one administration official. Others put the figure at potentially more than 1 million people.
Hispanics make up the fastest-growing immigrant population in the country, and the Latino vote is considered a crucial bloc for the November presidential election. Democrats, however, rejected Republican claims that the move was political. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who sponsored the DREAM Act, noted that Obama repeatedly called for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation, including the DREAM Act. The president acted only after it became clear no progress would come in this Congress, Durbin said.
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