WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- In a policy shift, the Obama administration announced Friday it no longer will deport most young illegal immigrants and will allow them to seek work permits.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said the government no longer would seek deportation of undocumented immigrants who were taken to the United States as children, provided they meet specific criteria, and would allow them to apply for work permits. The changes are effective immediately.
Republicans attacked the change, saying it would be better to leave the matter to Congress.
President Barack Obama said the department's decision to refocus its enforcement would "mend our nation's immigration policy to make it more fair, more efficient and more just."
The young illegal immigrants attend the country's schools, play and live in U.S. neighborhoods and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, Obama said, adding that the children were taken into the country by their parents and often didn't know they were undocumented until they applied for college or work.
"They're American in every single way but one … on paper," Obama said.
The changes affect undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children who aren't a risk to national security or public safety and who meet other criteria, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. Those meeting the criteria could receive deferred action for a 2-year period and will be eligible to apply for work permits.
The action "lifts the shadow of deportation from these young people," Obama said.
"This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," he said.
"This is a temporary stop-gap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people."
The election-year initiative addresses a key issue of the critical Latino voting bloc opposed to deportation policies. The administrative action bypasses Congress and includes elements of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act -- the so-called DREAM Act -- long-sought-but-never-enacted legislation that would have provided a path toward citizenship for children who entered the United States illegally but attended college or served in the military. Republicans blocked the initiative in 2010.
Under the criteria, consideration will be given to individuals who entered the United States under age 16 and are not older than 30; have lived in the United States for at least five years; are in school, graduated from high school, earned a general equivalency certificate or honorably discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard or armed forces; and haven't been convicted of a felony, major misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Deferred action requests will be decided on a case-by-case basis, the department said. Implementation of the application process should happen within 60 days, officials said.
"Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner," Napolitano said in a release. "Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here."
Because the change is temporary, Obama called on Congress again to pass the DREAM Act, noting that both parties were involved in writing the legislation that passed in the 2010 Democrat-led House but failed in the Senate when it was blocked by Republicans.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often mentioned as a possible running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said in a statement the news "will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer, but it is a short-term answer to a long-term problem."
Noting there is broad support for the idea, Rubio said there also is broad consensus "that it should be done in a way that does not encourage illegal immigration in the future. This is a difficult balance to strike, one that this new policy, imposed by executive order, will make harder to achieve in the long run."
Romney agreed with Rubio, saying he would rather see the matter handled through legislation.
Some Republicans were more critical. U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said he would sue the Obama administration because the executive branch doesn't have the power to issue the change in policy, The Hill reported. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said in a statement the proposal is "a breach of faith with the American people" that will have "horrible consequences for unemployed Americans looking for jobs and violates President Obama's oath to uphold the laws of this land."
Obama: 'Lasting change' for LGBT in U.S.
WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Friday said America is experiencing "real and lasting change" on equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Speaking at a White House reception, the president listed changes that have taken place during his administration, including the end of the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act, an executive order requiring hospitals that accept federal funds to "treat LGBT patients just like any other patient," expansion of same-sex partner benefits for federal employees, and the Justice Department's decision to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.
"Now, I've said before that I would never counsel patience; that it wasn't right to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for others to tell women to be patient a century ago, or African-Americans to be patient a half century ago," he said. "After decades of inaction and indifference, you have every reason and right to push, loudly and forcefully, for equality.
"But three years ago, I also promised you this: I said that even if it took more time than we would like, we would see progress, we would see success, we would see real and lasting change. And together, that's what we're witnessing."
The White House reception came on the same day Defense Secretary Leon Panetta thanked gay, lesbian and bisexual service members as part of the Pentagon's first-ever celebration of gay rights month.
Powell gets 30 months for voyeurism
TACOMA, Wash., June 15 (UPI) -- A judge in Tacoma, Wash., Friday sentenced Steven Craig Powell to 30 months in prison for voyeurism, for taking videos of two young girls as they bathed.
Powell was prosecuted after evidence of the crime turned up during a police investigation into the disappearance of his daughter-in-law, Susan Powell. He was convicted May 16.
His defense team argued for a lighter sentence while prosecutors urged Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper to impose a 10-year sentence, The (Tacoma) News Tribune reported.
Detectives searching Steven Powell's files in August 2011 for information on his daughter-in-law found a computer disc, "disc 12," with images of a neighbor's two young daughters taken surreptitiously while they were undressing or using the bathroom in their home outside Puyallup, Wash.
The two girls and their mother testified during the trial. The mother said Powell filmed her daughters -- who were 9 and 8 at the time -- in various stages of undress, and that she'd learned about it from an investigator.
"He explained to us that when we lived at our rental house, our neighbor had taken pictures of us," the mother said.
Investigators have said they are convinced Susan is dead and named her husband as a person of interest, although he was never charged. Josh Powell killed himself and his sons in February in an explosion at his rented home in Puyallup.
Carlotta just off Mexico Pacific coast
MIAMI, June 15 (UPI) -- Tropical Storm Carlotta gained hurricane strength Friday as it approached Mexico's Pacific coast, forecasters said.
At 8 p.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Carlotta, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph and higher gusts, was about 10 miles south-southwest of Puerto Angel and about 225 miles east-southeast of Acapulco, moving northwest at 12 mph.
The storm became a category 2 hurricane Friday, with the center expected to produce significant coastal flooding to the north and east near the coast. A storm surge is expected to be accompanied by large and destructive waves.
A hurricane warning was in effect from Salina Cruz to Acapulco and hurricane watches were in effect from Salina Cruz to Barra de Tonala and from Acapulco to Tecpan de Galeana. A tropical storm warning was in effect from Salina Cruz to Barra de Tonala.
The Mexican states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas could receive a foot of rain, which could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
The center of the storm was expected to move near or over the coast of southern Mexico late Friday night and Saturday, with no additional strengthening Friday night and a slower forward speed expected Saturday. The storm is expected to weaken as its center moves along the coast.