Mitt Romney is partly right in his criticism of President Barack Obama’s executive order to stop the deportation of as many as 800,000 undocumented immigrants: It doesn’t go far enough.

The president announced Friday that the government would not seek the removal of immigrants under age 30 who came here as children, have a clean criminal record, a high school diploma or served in the military. They can apply for a work permit, good for two years and there are no limits on its renewal.

This new policy does not offer these people, who as the president said, are American in every way except on paper, a path to citizenship. It does not, as Romney pointed out, put anything in statute to provide a permanent solution to the status of millions of people who are living here illegally.

It is a good first step, however, and Obama should be applauded for taking it.

Critics of the move make the usual arguments: Immigration policy should focus first on border security and then on deporting people who are here illegally. Those are the only things we are doing about illegal immigration.

Are borders are more secure and less porous than any time in our history. There are twice as many agents along the Mexican than there were in 2004, in a buildup begun by President George W. Bush and continued by Obama. And since taking office in 2009, the Obama administration has increased the pace of deportation of undocumented immigrants, averaging 400,000 per year.

When it comes to the other aspects of immigration reform, however, dysfunction in Congress means all efforts to address any other aspect of immigration reform are stuck.

In 2010, the Senate killed the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought here as children and never attained legal status, and there has been no real effort since to address immigration reform.

Romney can criticize Obama for not going far enough, but Romney also should put pressure on the members of his party who have not been willing to take even the first step.

Obama’s executive order offers some security for some people for an indefinite period of time. It’s not enough, but it is progress.


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