Tags: US | politics | immigration | Obama

Obama to Congress: 'Pass a Bill'

Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 06:15 PM

President Barack Obama tonight will end months of buildup and announce actions that give about 5 million undocumented immigrants a reprieve from the threat of deportation, combining that with a promise of tougher border enforcement.

Obama described his decision as “a commonsense, middle ground approach” that’s within his powers as president, a point challenged by Republicans.

“And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill,” Obama will say, according to excerpts of a speech he’s scheduled to deliver at 8 p.m. Washington time.

Obama’s executive actions will defer for three years deportation for people who came to the U.S. as children and for parents of children who are citizens or legal permanent residents. The changes wouldn’t give these people, primarily from Mexico and Central America, an easier path to citizenship.

The administration also says it will streamline the visa process for foreign workers and their employers and provide more options for foreign entrepreneurs, according to a fact sheet released by the White House. The plan won’t expand the number of H1-B visas for higher-skilled workers important to the technology industry.

Anticipating opposition, especially from House Republicans, Obama coupled the deferred deportations with a promise to deport undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes in the U.S. and to keep more resources devoted to border security.

Obama’s actions are bound to upset both immigration advocates who want more and Republican lawmakers who want less. They also will frame part of the debate in the 2016 presidential campaign and may influence the political loyalties of Hispanics, a fast growing ethnic group.

The administration is justifying the policy changes on both humanitarian and economic grounds.

“Part of staying competitive in a global economy is making sure that we have an immigration system that doesn’t send away talent, but attracts it,” Obama said earlier today at the White House as he awarded medals for science and technology developments. “We want them to initiate new discoveries and start businesses right here in the United States. So that’s what I’ll be talking about a little bit tonight.”

Obama is expanding a program that allows people who entered the U.S. illegally as minors by moving the cutoff date by which one must have arrived to be eligible to Jan. 1, 2010, from June 15, 2007. These so-called DREAMers have been vocal advocates of Obama allowing more people to stay in the U.S. The administration didn’t place an upper age limit on qualifying, provided the applicants entered the U.S. as children.

While the president decided he doesn’t have the legal authority to include their parents in today’s actions, as many as half of the parents might still qualify under other provisions of the policy, according to an administration official familiar with the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity before Obama’s address.

The White House estimates about 270,000 people will qualify for this provision and another 4 million will be eligible for a deportation reprieve as authorities focus their attention elsewhere.

Those who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and have been in the country for five years or more also will be eligible for deferred deportation provided they can pass a criminal and national security background check.

A smaller portion of the deportation deferrals will go to people eligible to receive visas to work in science and technology fields and to entrepreneurs who have financial support and plans to create jobs in the U.S.

The enforcement piece out of the Homeland Security Department will focus on apprehensions on the southern border with Mexico and on gang members, potential terrorists and criminals for deportation.

While Obama’s actions amount to the most sweeping changes to the nation’s immigration system in a generation, his actions don’t go as far as the legislation passed by the Senate last year and stuck in the Republican-controlled House. Obama said he still wants Congress to act on an immigration bill.

Republicans are split on how to block Obama’s immigration actions. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell say they don’t want a repeat of the October 2013 shutdown.

Because the immigration programs are funded through fees rather than congressional appropriations, they would keep running if the government shut down as did the Affordable Care Act when the government halted last year, an administration official said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity before the plan was announced.

Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican in line to become Budget Committee chairman, said in an e-mailed statement today that “there is no question that Congress has the power to block this expenditure and no doubt that it can be done.”

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor group, applauded Obama’s action while warning that business will use the expansion of temporary visas to undermine wages at tech companies. The AFL-CIO will pressure the government to create rules so that “new workers will be hired based on real labor market need and afforded full rights and protections,” he said.

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President Barack Obama tonight will end months of buildup and announce actions that give about 5 million undocumented immigrants a reprieve from the threat of deportation, combining that with a promise of tougher border enforcement. Obama described his decision as "a...
US, politics, immigration, Obama
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2014-15-20
Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 06:15 PM
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