World

Obama moves to give legal status to 5 million illegal immigrants

Millions of immigrants living illegally in the US will be allowed to apply for work permits under a major shake-up unveiled by President Barack Obama, the BBC reports.

They include immigrants living in the US for five years who have children staying legally in the US.

Up to five million are expected to benefit from a reform package forced through using executive orders, which allow Mr Obama to bypass Congress.

Republicans have accused the president of an “illegal power-grab”.

There are estimated to be 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.

Under Mr Obama’s plan, undocumented parents of children who are US citizens or legal residents will be able to apply for work permits lasting three years.

Only parents who have lived in the US for five years will qualify – about four million people are estimated to fit this criterion.

Hundreds of thousands more will benefit from other changes, including a decision to broaden a scheme giving temporary legal status to those who arrived in the US as children.

“Come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” Mr Obama said in a televised address.

He insisted his proposals, which are the biggest immigration reforms since the mid-1980s, did not amount to an amnesty.

“What I’m describing is accountability – a common-sense, middle ground approach,” he said.

Although the plan will allow millions to work, it will not offer a path to citizenship or entitle them to the same benefits as Americans, he said.

“If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the US illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up,” he said.

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