WASHINGTON — Under orders by President Obama to enforce immigration laws “more humanely,” Homeland Security officials are focusing on at least two major policy changes that would slow the pace of deportations of immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
But the White House has tentatively rejected proposals to expand an Obama administration program to allow the parents of young people who were brought to the country illegally to stay.
Officials said Friday that the changes under review would effectively stop most deportations of foreigners with no criminal convictions other than immigration violations, and focus enforcement efforts instead mostly at those charged or convicted of felony crimes or who pose more of a threat to public safety.
Thousands of people are deported every year who have overstayed their visas or entered the country illegally but have broken no other laws. Many are parents of children who are U.S. citizens.
The deliberations mark a shift for the Obama administration, which has repeatedly insisted it has done all it can to make major changes in immigration policy on its own. Obama has said only the immigration legislation now stalled in the Republican-led House can fix what all sides describe as a broken system.
But a searing public campaign by immigration activists and lawmakers appears to have forced Obama to rethink his position. In recent days, former political allies caustically dubbed Obama the “deporter in chief” and Latino members of Congress threatened a resolution calling on him to ease the deportations.