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Some illegal immigrants can stay, work under executive order

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A number of illegal immigrants in Maryland and Washington, D.C. know only this country. Although born elsewhere, they came here with their parents at a young age looking for a better life. They have grown up in U.S. schools and adopted U.S. customs, but still retain illegal status and are therefore at risk for deportation. But that risk has been temporarily reduced under the terms of an order recently issued by President Obama, to the potential benefit of many immigrants.

The order allows certain illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. and become able to work here as well. But it operates according to strictly defined criteria. Eligible immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. when they were under 16 years old, lived here for five years or more and must currently be no older than 30.

In addition, immigrants who have been convicted of a felony crime or particular misdemeanors do not qualify under the order. Lastly, immigrants must have either received a high school diploma or an honorable discharge from a branch of the military. Government estimates suggest that approximately 800,000 of the nearly 2 million illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children would qualify to remain here and earn a work permit.

There are a few important things to note about the order. It does not authorize qualifying immigrants to stay in the U.S. permanently. There is a two-year limit, but immigrants may be able to reapply for an extension after that time. In addition, the order does not provide citizenship to qualifying immigrants.

Source: Reuters, "Obama spares many illegal immigrants deportation," Jeff Mason and Richard Cowan, June 16, 2012.

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