Many illegal immigrants who were facing deportation despite having no criminal record will be allowed to stay in the country and apply for a work permit under new rules from the Homeland Security Department. Republicans are balking at the change.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Thursday that the department will focus on deporting illegal immigrants who are criminals or pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Napolitano announced the plan in a letter to a group of senators who support revamping the immigration system. Under the change, approximately 300,000 deportation cases pending in immigration court will be reviewed case by case.

“From a law enforcement and public safety perspective, DHS enforcement resources must continue to be focused on our highest priorities,” Napolitano wrote in the letter. “Doing otherwise hinders our public safety mission — clogging immigration court dockets and diverting DHS enforcement resources away from individuals who pose a threat to public safety.”

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