This morning the Obama administration announced a new executive branch policy that, according to the AP, "bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military."

As Daniel Halper reports, Obama said in March 2011 that such a policy would run afoul of "laws on the books that Congress has passed." And as Gabriel Malor points out, just one year ago President Obama said: "for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President."

So what changed between 2011 and 2012? Obviously, the presidential election is now in full-swing, and President Obama is making a play for Hispanic voters upset by the record number of deportations carried out by the Obama administration. As ABC news reported in December: "Since 2009, the annual average number of deportations has approached 400,000, according to the Department of Homeland Security. That’s double the annual average during President George W. Bush’s first term and 30 percent higher than the average when he left office."

Whether Obama's election year immigration ploy will make up for his administration's record number of deportations in the minds of those motivated by such issues remains to be seen. But another potential added political benefit to Obama's move on immigration is that it might keep Mitt Romney from selecting Florida senator and GOP star Marco Rubio as a running-mate. Rubio has been working on his own version of the Dream Act that is similar to the policy unilaterally implemented by the Obama administration today.

Update: Rubio says in a statement:

“There is broad support for the idea that we should figure out a way to help kids who are undocumented through no fault of their own, but there is also broad consensus that it should be done in a way that does not encourage illegal immigration in the future. This is a difficult balance to strike, one that this new policy, imposed by executive order, will make harder to achieve in the long run.

“Today’s announcement will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer, but it is a short term answer to a long term problem. And by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long term one.”

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