The changes, announced Thursday, would allow many illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and apply for work permits.
The changes could be especially beneficial to people who would be eligible for an immigration proposal pushed by Democrats that has yet to pass Congress, The Hill reported.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would provide a pathway to permanent residency and eventually citizenship for certain illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. The bill passed the House in December but was blocked by Republicans in the Senate.
Under the new rules, Homeland Security officials would perform case-by-case reviews of people scheduled to be deported to eliminate violent criminals and other high-priority cases from the potential pool of candidates not considered a threat.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., praised the announcement, saying President Obama "made the right decision in changing the way they handle deportations of DREAM Act students."
"These students are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers, and maybe senators, who will make America stronger," Durbin said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the change "will help prioritize our limited enforcement resources to focus on serious felons, gang members and individuals who are a national security threat rather than college students and veterans who have risked their lives for our country."
The Nevada Democrat called the changes a common-sense approach that would address "an untenable situation where the deportations of foreign drug traffickers and violent criminals face long delays because our immigration courts are overwhelmed by low-priority cases of individuals with no criminal records."
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