President Obama Announces Immigration Reform Plans

    “Our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it”: Obama

    I.S. Saluja

    WASHINGTON (TIP): Ignoring dire warnings of Republicans to “Emperor Obama” that his planned executive action to grant deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants would “poison the well” in Congress, Obama announced his immigration reform plans to the country on Thursday, November 20 to help build a system that “lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.” Stating “Americans are tired of gridlock”, Obama offered to “work with both the parties” to fix the “broken system”. However, he said that he had tried to work with Congress, and blamed the House of Representatives for a bipartisan Senate bill never seeing a yes-no vote.

    Still, the president said, he hopes to eventually “pass that kind of common sense law.” “This plan, which will be enacted by executive action, “will help secure the border, hold nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants accountable, and ensure that everyone plays by the same rules,” the White House said in a press release. Obama announced the actions on immigration in an address from the White House. He is expected to sign the actions at a rally in Las Vegas on Friday, November 21. “Our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it,” he said, later adding that his critics call the plan a form of amnesty. “Well, it’s not.” Obama said. “Amnesty is the immigration system we have todaymillions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.” Obama emphasized in his address that he is instead pushing for the accountability of undocumented immigrants.

    “That’s the real amnesty-leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability-a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” the president said. “If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.” The three main elements of the actions will be cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, but not families; and establishing criminal background checks and taxes for undocumented immigrants.

    “By registering and passing criminal and national security background checks, millions of undocumented immigrants will start paying their fair share of taxes and temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation for three years at a time,” the White House release said. If undocumented immigrants submit to these background checks, register with the government, pay fees and show they have a child born in the U.S., then they “will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for three years at a time.” These reforms will actually make it more difficult to enter the country without documentation, Obama said, but some did not agree.

    Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a statement that Obama’s “decision tonight will lead to more illegal immigration, not less.” Obama addressed critics of the plan, explaining that “tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you.” “By providing individuals with an opportunity to come out of the shadows and work legally, we will also help crack down on companies who hired undocumented workers, which undermines the wages of all workers, and ensure that individuals are playing by the rules and paying their fair share of taxes,” the release said. The president’s executive actions will also expand the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The rule currently offers temporary relief from deportation to children who had been in the country for at least five years and meet certain criteria.

    Now, anyone who came to the U.S. as a child can apply if they entered before Jan. 1, 2010-no matter how old they are now. The White House also said that DACA relief will be granted for three years in the country going forward. Obama’s reforms will also cover a wide swath of issues related to immigration such as shifting more resources to the border, streamlining the immigration court process, and implementing a new Priority Enforcement Program that removes criminals. Additionally, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will issue a memorandum making “clear that the government’s enforcement activity should be focused on national security threats, serious criminals, and recent border crossers,” as opposed to families.

    In his address, Obama cited scripture: “We shall not oppress the stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger.” He went on to add “We were strangers once, too”. He said that this country is a country of immigrants, no matter what ocean they had crossed. He also quoted his predecessor Bush who had said about illegal immigrants, ” They are a part of American life”. The president’s actions will also cover several other facets of immigration and naturalization, including “enhancing options for foreign entrepreneurs” and “streamlining the process for foreign workers and their employers.”

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