Mexico, Central America hail Obama immigration plan

Anti-Obama protesters angered by the President's immigration plans in Las Vegas, Nevada on Nov 21, 2014. Mexico's President on Friday joined Central American leaders and Latino celebrities in applauding US President Barack Obama's landmark offer to s
Anti-Obama protesters angered by the President's immigration plans in Las Vegas, Nevada on Nov 21, 2014. Mexico's President on Friday joined Central American leaders and Latino celebrities in applauding US President Barack Obama's landmark offer to shield millions of undocumented migrants from deportation. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Mexico's President on Friday joined Central American leaders and Latino celebrities in applauding US President Barack Obama's landmark offer to shield millions of undocumented migrants from deportation.

"I wish to express our appreciation, as a country, to the president of the United States for his announcement," President Enrique Pena Nieto said at a gathering of justice officials in Mexico City.

"Speaking of justice, this is an act of justice that values the great contributions made by millions of Mexicans to the development of our neighbouring country of North America," he said.

Mexican and Central American officials said they would provide information about the program to their citizens through their consulates in the United States.

Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organisation of American States, praised "the courage of the US executive, who decided to move forward toward a fair goal that did not deserve to be further postponed."

The measure shared the spotlight at the Latin Grammy Award ceremony in Las Vegas late Thursday.

"I don't think I have heard any US president speak so beautifully about our Latinos as Obama did," Colombian singer Carlos Vives said as he dedicated his award for best contemporary tropical album to the US leader.

Defying his Republican Party rivals, Obama announced Thursday that he would offer up to five million undocumented migrants protection from deportation.

The controversial overhaul provides three-year relief for those who have lived in the United States for more than five years and have children who are US citizens or legal residents.

The order will affect about 44 per cent of more than 11 million people - mostly from Mexico and Central America - living in the United States illegally.

"We thank President Obama for his decision," Guatemalan President Otto Perez said late Thursday, shortly after the US leader's announcement.

El Salvador's foreign minister, Hugo Martinez, voiced "the satisfaction of President Salvador Sanchez Ceren's administration because many of our compatriots will have temporary relief regarding their migratory situation."

The Honduran government said the move was "a great step in the right direction by the United States to resolve the migratory problem of 11 million people."

Central American migrant rights groups also welcomed the move.

"While they are temporary, these are actions for which we have fought for years," Cesar Rios, director of the Salvadoran Migrant Institute, told AFP.