By Tom Cohen, CNN
Washington (CNN) -- In an election-year policy change, the Obama administration said Friday it will stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements.
The shift on the politically volatile issue of immigration policy prompted immediate praise from Latino leaders who have criticized Congress and the White House for inaction, while Republicans reacted with outrage, saying the move amounts to amnesty -- a negative buzz word among conservatives -- and usurps congressional authority.
Those who might benefit from the change expressed joy and relief, with celebratory demonstrations forming outside the White House and elsewhere.
Pedro Ramirez, a student who has campaigned for such a move, said he was "definitely speechless," then added: "It's great news."
In a Rose Garden address Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama said the changes caused by his executive order will make immigration policy "more fair, more efficient and more just."
"This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," Obama said to take on conservative criticism of the step. "This is a temporary stopgap measure."
Noting children of illegal immigrants "study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, befriend our kids, pledge allegiance to our flag," Obama said, "it makes no sense to expel talented young people who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans."
When a reporter interrupted Obama with a hostile question, the president admonished him and declared that the policy change is "the right thing to do."