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Colorado Immigrant Groups Praise Obama Pilot Program

Colorado immigrant groups are hailing a new pilot program launched this week in Denver and Baltimore that aims to narrow focus on deporting serious criminals that are in the country illegally.  The Obama Administration has ordered federal immigration officials to review some 7,800 pending deportation cases in Colorado as part of the six week, experimental program.Immigration attorneys said the program could help people like Gerardo Noriega who moved to Colorado when he was nine with his parents.   He attended middle and high school in Aurora and says he now wants to go to college.

But he's been in limbo due to his possible deportation.

"We are really Americans," Noriega said. "We’ve lived our whole lives here in the US and we consider the United States as our home and we just want to contribute back to the country that I’ve lived in for so many years."

The six week pilot project stems from an announcement earlier this year by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who said the government would be focusing its deportation efforts on those who pose a safety or national security threat.

Laura Lichter, the incoming president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  She says over half of the undocumented immigrants being deported currently have no criminal records or misdemeanors. 

"Once those resources are taken away from low priority cases, they can be shifted to higher priority cases and so the government’s focus on this is not simply just cutting down on backlogs in the immigration docket," Lichter said. "But also really trying to focus its resources against the bad guys." 

Immigrant groups here praised the Administration for choosing Colorado where they said many Latino voters are anxious for immigration reform. 

Critics though, including some Republicans, said the program gives amnesty to people who knowingly came to the country illegally.

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.