Bay Area officials Friday hailed a move by President Barack Obama to provide tObama4-21-11.jpgemporary relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Among those voicing their support for the new policy today were elected officials from San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon to U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

“Brought to the U.S. as young children by their parents who came from their home countries without legal documentation, the people helped by this new policy call America their home,” Speier said. “They have grown up here, yet they are not citizens like their college roommates, basketball teammates or next door neighbors and they could be deported at any time to a country whose language they may not even know.”

The policy involves the use of “prosecutorial discretion” to defer deportation orders for two years, said Eshoo, who called it a “landmark change” in immigration policy. It does not change immigration status or provide a pathway to citizenship, but it could allow those who qualify to work in the United States legally.

Obama’s announcement included a call on national legislators to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented people brought to the country as a child.

Obama’s action could affect nearly 800,000 young immigrants, said Lee.

“While President Obama’s announcement is a step in the right direction, this is not a permanent solution or a substitution for a Congressional action,” said Lee. “I will continue to fight for, and urge my colleagues to pass, the DREAM Act so that we can provide these young people who came to America and excelled the full range of opportunities they have earned.”

“The President’s bold and courageous act brings a generation of young hardworking immigrants out of the shadows,” said Gascon in a statement. “It gives affirmation to this younger generation that they are valued and deserving of a better life.”

“This change is not only the right moral decisions; it is also good for America culturally and economically,” said state Sen. Leland Yee.

The decision was also praised by groups that work with immigrants.

“In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to working with DREAMers and their families to ensure that they receive the full benefits of this historic opportunity and encourage them to reach out to our organizations for support,” said Hyeon-Ju Rho, executive director of the Asian Law Caucus.

“This executive order will provide at least some relief for those whose sole wish is to live freely and openly in the only country they know,” said officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.

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