President Barack Obama will propose a new immigration rule aimed at letting the undocumented children or spouses of U.S. citizens remain in the country while their residency application is considered, an unnamed administration source told The Associated Press on Friday.
The rule would not require action by Congress, and would provide waivers to some undocumented immigrants who travel outside of the country to apply for residency, letting them return to their families in the U.S. within days instead of years.
Current rules ban undocumented immigrants from returning to the U.S. for three to 10 years, depending on how long they were living in the U.S. illegally. Hardship waivers can presently be requested, but they typically take more than six months before being approved.
The new rule being proposed by the administration would let immigrants without criminal records apply for hardship waivers that would allow them to return to the U.S. almost immediately after traveling outside the country to apply for residency. They must prove, however, that their absence would cause "extreme hardship" for their family.
About 23,000 hardship applications were taken in 2011, the AP noted. About 70 percent were approved.
As a candidate, Obama pledged to reform the U.S. immigration system: a position that earned him wide support among Mexican-Americans in the 2008 presidential election. His efforts have been stymied, however, by congressional Republicans who've filibustered every attempt at reform.
As part of his pledge to take more unilateral action where Congress refuses to work with him, Obama directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to use discretion in choosing which undocumented immigrants to arrest, especially when confronted with children who were brought into the country illegally.
The president has supported legislation known as the DREAM Act, which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to attend U.S schools and remain in the country while they apply for citizenship.
Though offering the only clear vision in today's politics for the reform of immigration laws, Obama's administration has also deported undocumented immigrants at a faster rate than any modern presidency.
Recent polling by the Pew Research Center found that 58 percent of Latinos disapprove of the president's immigration policies, but they vastly support Obama for reelection over potential challenger Mitt Romney, the former Republican Governor of Massachusetts.
Pew estimated that 21.7 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election, an increase of about 2 million over the 2008 election.