WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Friday announced a major immigration policy change that will stop the deportation of younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives and allow them to apply for work permits.
While opponents are calling the move amnesty, Obama said in no uncertain terms that it is not, nor is it a path to citizenship for those known as "DREAMers."
"Let's be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix. ... This is a temporary stopgap measure," he explained.
It's also not a blanket policy. It's designed specifically for those brought here as babies or young children, have no criminal history and want to make positive contributions to the country they call home -- for many of them, the only one they've ever known.
"These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag," Obama said. "They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one -- on paper."
There are some 800,000 "DREAMers" in the U.S., including tens of thousands here in Arizona.
Obama said the immigration policy change is meant to make the system "more fair, more efficient and more just" for them. He went a step further.
"It's the right thing to do," he said.
At one point during Obama's address, Neil Munro of the Daily Caller, a conservative online publication, interrupted with a question.
"Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?" he asked
The president reprimanded Munro before continuing his remarks. He came back to the question -- with a second reprimand -- as he was wrapping up.
"This is the right thing to do for the American people, and here's why. ... These young people are going to make extraordinary contributions and are already making contributions to our society," he said. "If there's a young person here who has grown up here and wants to contribute to this society, wants to maybe start a business that will create jobs ... that's the right thing to do. ...
"We have always drawn strength from being a nation of immigrants, as well as a nation of laws. That's going to continue. My hope is that Congress recognizes that and gets behind this effort."