In the lead up to the election, Obama made several administrative changes to the immigration system, including launching a program to allow some young illegal immigrants to avoid deportation and work legally in the country for up to two years. His administration also refocused enforcement efforts to target criminal immigrants and those who posed a security threat. And just last week, the administration announced a rule change to allow some illegal immigrant spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay in the country while they ask the government to waive 3- or 10-year bans on returning to the United States. Immigrants who win the waiver will still need to leave the country to complete visa paperwork, but will be able to leave without fear of being barred from returning to their families for up to a decade. The rule, first proposed last year, goes into effect in March.
Republican lawmakers have widely criticized the policy changes, routinely describing them as ‘‘backdoor amnesty.’’ Many of those same lawmakers have said the border needs to be secured before reform can be taken up.
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