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Obama's immigration move good policy -- and good politics

By Ali Noorani, Special to CNN
June 16, 2012 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ali Noorani: Obama took good step ensuring best, brightest immigrants can stay in U.S.
  • He says allowing kids brought into country with parents to stay won't help everyone, but most
  • He says it's also good politics. Romney's self-deportation approach ignores Latino votes
  • Noorani: Even conservative base is promoting immigration reform. Where's Romney?

Editor's note: Ali Noorani is executive director of the National Immigration Forum Action Fund, an organization based in Washington that advocates the value of immigrants. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Really good policy makes for even better politics.

Today, President Obama took an important step forward to prioritize Department of Homeland Security law enforcement resources to make sure the best and brightest among us can remain with their families.

As DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement, "Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner. But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case."

Ali Noorani
Ali Noorani

Young people who are dedicated to their education and America are exactly the kind of people we need and want.

The president's action would not apply to those who have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety. Nor does the action provide a path to permanent residence or citizenship.

But it does keep close to 1 million people who came to the United States as children with their families.

That is good policy and smart government.

And, yes, it is good politics.

Napolitano: Congress needs to act
18-year-old fights to stay in U.S.

The president met the need of the families of the country's fastest-growing electorate.

It is equally true the presumptive Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, is ignoring this electorate.

News: Obama administration to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants

Through his endorsement of "self-deportation" as his version of humane immigration policy, Romney and Republicans have dug themselves a hole some 50 million Latinos deep. The fact is, no voter is going to listen to an economic message if a candidate wants to deport his mother.

For a smart guy, Romney has been remarkably lead-footed. But other Republicans have realized the GOP is about to walk off a ledge.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's much ballyhooed version of the DREAM Act would seem to serve the exact same purpose as Obama's action (that is, if we ever see a bill). Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently went further and said about DREAM youth, "These are precisely the type of individuals we would all want as citizens."

Some social conservatives, the base of the Republican Party, are also voicing their support for immigration reform.

Earlier this week, the Evangelical Immigration Table announced principles signed by more than 150 of the nation's leading evangelicals, including Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. In an interview with Christianity Today, Daly said, "Let's get behind this, not play politics with it left or right and not fear-monger with it. These are people that need dignity. Even though in some cases they've broken the law, there's always that heartfelt story out there where you just tear up looking at what they're facing now. We need to do what's humane."

With the president's decision, politicians on both sides of the aisle have an opportunity to act in a dignified manner.

Will Romney promise to support this move as president, or will he threaten to eliminate this provision with the stroke of a pen?

Voters across the political spectrum are waiting and watching.

Photos: Putting a human face on the immigration debate.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ali Noorani.

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