Two Tennessee congressional Republicans slammed President Barack Obama's speech touting immigration reform in Nashville on Tuesday, charging that he was rewarding illegal aliens at the expense of unemployed Americans.
"America’s workforce participation rate sits at a 36-year low due to the Obama economy," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn. "More than 90 million Americans are out of work, so it is unfair to Tennessee families that this president wants to force hard-working taxpayers to compete for jobs with illegal aliens."
"More than 200,000 Tennesseans remain out of work, but rather than prioritize their plight, the president is putting the interests of those who have broken our laws ahead of them," said Rep. Diane Black. "Why should unemployed Tennesseans have to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs?"
At a town hall meeting at an immigrant community center in the Volunteer State's capital city, President Obama tried to reassure illegals that if they registered under his new executive action, they would not be a priority for deportation in the future.
"It's true that a future administration might try to reverse some of our policies," Obama told people at the Casa Azafrán Community Center. "But I'll be honest with you, I think that the American people basically have a good heart and want to treat people fairly.
"I think any future administration that tried to punish people for doing the right thing would not have the support of the American people," he said.
Obama said giving people the confidence they can register would be an important part of the program's success.
Under President Obama's executive immigration orders signed last month, illegals who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents — those with green cards — would be spared from deportation for three years. They must register with the government, pass a background check, and pay taxes.
None of the illegals would be eligible
for citizenship or green cards, or federal benefits. They would, however, receive work permits, Social Security numbers — and a guarantee that, unless they commit a serious criminal offense, they would not be deported.
President Obama also expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that he created in 2012 for illegals who were brought to the U.S. as children. The orders could affect as many as 6 million immigrants.
Republicans have blasted Obama for acting unilaterally on immigration — the House voted against the orders last week — and have threatened to finance the Department of Homeland Security for only a few months in the omnibus budget bill under negotiation to stop the orders from being implemented.
In their comments, the Tennessee representatives attacked the president for his orders, saying that he lacked the authority to change immigration laws without congressional approval.
"This is wrong and the president does not have the authority to change our immigration laws without Congress, as he himself has said at least 22 times," Black said. "But now, he has changed his mind and chosen Nashville as a destination to publicly thumb his nose at the American electorate that just rebuked him in the last election."
Blackburn, who sponsored legislation the House passed in August to freeze DACA, asked:
"What is the president’s response to those immigrants who have been lawfully waiting in line for years to become citizens? Is that consistent with the societal 'fairness' of which he so often speaks?"
Blackburn's bill was not considered by the Senate.
"His solution to immigration is to take out his pen and write an executive memo that encourages thousands of illegal aliens to flood our borders through unconstitutional executive actions," she said.
"President Obama’s actions have effectively nullified the immigration laws of this country and made America an 'open borders society' with no rules governing entrance except those announced through royal decree."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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