President Barack Obama's announcement Friday that his administration would, in the spirit of the Dream Act, stop deporting some young immigrants was sensible, compassionate, fiscally responsible and long overdue.
His opponents, predictably, went berserk. But Republicans have blocked the Dream Act in Congress, and the president was right to use his authority to provide some help to young people who are American in every sense but on paper.
The new policy does not grant a path to citizenship, as the Dream Act would do. However, it allows those younger than 30 who were brought here illegally as children to avoid deportation and to apply for a work permit. The new rules apply only to those who have been here five years or more, have no criminal record and are in school, have a high school diploma or have served in the military.
This is certainly good politics for the president, who has struggled to explain to Latinos and other voting blocs his failure to make immigration reform a priority. But more important, it is the right thing to do -- both for the individuals caught in a legal limbo and for the country as a whole.
These young people had no choice in coming to the United States, and it's beyond cruel to send them back to a country with which many have no connection.
This policy will help the country hold onto the best and brightest immigrants -- those who have worked hard for an education or are sacrificing to serve
Using scarce tax dollars to deport them is utterly senseless.
There is no way the federal government could round up the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country and send them back to their homelands. Giving prosecutors the authority to not pursue deportation of young people educated in America leaves more resources for deporting criminals. It's smart policy in a time of constrained resources.
As many as 800,000 immigrants may be eligible to take advantage of this, although it's unclear how many will. If Mitt Romney is elected, he could easily rescind Obama's order come January, so some may be fearful of coming forward now.
Obama's announcement also should increase the pressure on Congress to end the Republican filibuster and send the Dream Act to the president's desk. As Obama put it, "These kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments."
There's no real hope of that happening before November. But for now, undocumented youths and their families at least know somebody in Washington cares.