In a spirited argument to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended President Obama's decision to stop deporting the children of undocumented immigrants.
"Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner," Napolitano told the committee last week. "But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case."
The Obama administration has claimed prosecutorial discretion in its policy change announced in June. Under the new approach, illegal immigrants could avoid deportation if they are under 30 years old, have lived in the United States at least five years, arrived here before turning 16, and graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or are working toward the degree.
Napolitano said that, in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Arizona immigration law, the justices noted the "broad discretion exercised by immigration officials." She said she would not rescind the policy: "It's right under the law."
The change gives undocumented youths a de facto version of the DREAM Act. Republicans have criticized the move as politically motivated "backdoor amnesty."