In a groundbreaking speech, Barack Obama announced this evening that he is using his authority and discretion as President to end the oppression of over five million new Americans by granting them a reprieve from the threat of deportation, provided they identify themselves to the federal government and pay their taxes.
Speaking from the White House, the President declared that America’s immigration system was broken, that Congress’ inaction was inexcusable, and that it was his moral duty to use his authority as the nation’s chief executive to make pursue a more sensible and responsible approach to enforcing our existing laws.
“We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules,” Obama said. “We expect those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded.”
“So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years, if you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents, if you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.”
“Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t,” the President continued. “This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.”
“I know some of the critics of the action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today. Millions 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. 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 it to our character. ”
Democrats and advocates for immigrants’ rights hailed the speech.
“Tonight President Obama outlined humane, necessary reforms to provide relief to hard-working, law-abiding Washington families and to support our state’s economy, including the important agricultural sector,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee. “The plan will also increase border security and enforcement where it should be – against criminals and individuals who would pose a threat to our national security.”
“I have repeatedly urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The president’s action should not absolve Congress of its responsibility to act in the face of a broken immigration system. Washington residents and businesses have waited long enough for action.”
U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene concurred.
“Everyone agrees that our immigration system is broken, but after more than a year of refusing to act on immigration reform legislation, House Republicans have shown themselves to be unwilling to make progress on this important issue,” said DelBene. “Time and again, they have refused to bring meaningful legislation to a vote on the House floor. If Republican leaders allowed a vote on H.R. 15, the bipartisan bill that I helped introduce, it would likely pass by a strong majority.”
“In light of House Republicans’ consistent failure to act on immigration reform, I understand President Obama’s decision to take reasonable steps to provide temporary relief to the families being torn apart by our current system. The Administration should focus its limited enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to public safety, not honor students and workers contributing to our economy. We must continue the critically important efforts to ensure a secure border and the deportation of dangerous criminals, and the President’s actions today are consistent with this priority.”
“The only long-term solution to fix our broken immigration system is for Congress to fulfill its responsibility to pass legislation. My commitment to passing immigration reform remains unwavering, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to achieve this goal.”