Democrats are touting the implementation today of President Barack Obama's plan to defer deportations of illegal immigrants who would have been eligible for the DREAM Act - a move they hope will help energize Hispanic voters in November.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the implementation of the plan, which includes a $465 fee and allows people to get a work permit provided they meet certain requirements.
"I applaud President Obama and Secretary Napolitano for keeping their promise to implement a deferred action process that prioritizes the use of our law enforcement resources to focus on public safety threats, not innocent young people looking to contribute to our society," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a statement. "Starting today, this process will allow law enforcement to dedicate their efforts to going after violent criminals and those who pose risks to our national security, while preserving opportunity for thousands of young people who have grown up here and want to do more for the only country they have ever known."
Obama in June announced the plan, which grants some young undocumented immigrants relief from the threat of deportation for two years. Supporters say the effort isn't a substitute for the DREAM Act, because it could be rescinded by a future administration.
Senate Democrats have been unable to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster on the legislation.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is holding workshops around the country to educate people on how to sign up for the Obama plan. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) predicted as many as a million people would enroll.
"This demonstrates that when people are given a chance to get in the system and on the books, they will take it," he said.
But Gutierrez made it clear it's only a first step.
"We need to find a way for the parents and neighbors of these young people to come forward too and to establish a legal immigration system that will restore dignity, legality and humanity to our immigration system."
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), have said they oppose the DREAM Act.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.