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FILE - In this June 15, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama announces his... (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Obama took that last step Friday. It delighted many Hispanic groups while prompting Republican officials to grouse more about the process he used than the actual policy.
Democrats enjoy a hefty edge among Hispanic voters, and some GOP strategists fear Romney is widening the gap.
In the primaries, Romney criticized one rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for granting in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants. The former Massachusetts governor also distanced himself from opponent Newt Gingrich's call for making it clear the United States will not deport illegal immigrants who have led stable, crime-free lives in the United States for many years.
"This is the right thing to do," Obama said in the Rose Garden as he outlined the new policy Friday.
Sidestepping Congress, where immigration proposals have languished for years, Obama acted to make illegal immigrants immune from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED diploma or certificate, or served in the military.
Millions of people in the United States, especially younger voters, rallied to Obama's 2008 campaign because they saw it as a barrier-breaking crusade giving voice to those weary of the Iraq war and falling economic opportunities. Democratic strategists hope to reignite some of that enthusiasm this year.
With significant economic gains so hard to achieve, a possible route is to be seen as expanding or protecting the rights of gays and lesbians, young Hispanics and young women.
Obama effectively ended the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 2010 by persuading Congress to enact the change, which activists warned he could do on his own if the lawmakers balked. He won more praise from gay activists last month when he embraced same-sex marriage, even if the move was largely symbolic. The bigger legal step was his 2011 decision not to enforce a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
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