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The administration officials stopped short of calling the change an administrative DREAM Act — the name is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors — but the qualifications meet those laid out in a 2010 version that failed in the Senate after passing in the House. They said the DREAM Act, in some form, and comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system remained an administration priority.

Illegal immigrant children won’t be eligible to apply for the deportation waiver until they turn 16, but the officials said younger children won’t be deported either.

Last year, Napolitano announced plans to review about 300,000 pending deportation cases and indefinitely suspend those that didn’t meet department priorities. So far, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reviewed more than 232,000 cases and decided to stop working on about 20,000. About 4,000 of those 20,000 have opted to keep fighting in court to stay in the United States legally. For the people who opted to close their cases, work permits are not guaranteed.