President Barack Obama used a primetime White House speech to tell a national audience of changes he plans to make to the U.S. immigration system.
Obama, who is frustrated by Congressional inaction on the subject, said the time had come to implement new rules to handle illegal immigration.
“For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose,” said Obama. “But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.”
The main changes include:
• The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division will shift priorities to encourage law enforcement officials to focus on illegal immigrants with criminal convictions and recent illegal arrivals to the U.S.
• Illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for five years or more with children born in the states can register with the government, pass a criminal background check, and pay taxes. This program is expected to impact nearly 4 million illegal immigrants.
• Also, foreign students studying in the fields of science and technology in the U.S. will have expanded visa opportunities. Also, entrepreneurs can come to the U.S. if they can demonstrate they have investors and will create domestic jobs.
The President also said the plan “will build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel.”
President Obama also countered criticism that the U.S. border with Mexico is unsecure and is making the immigration problem more difficult.
“Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts,” he said in a statement.
The timetable for implementation of the immigration order could take some time. Several aspects of the President’s action won’t go into effect until next spring, while some could take 18 months or more to work through the rule making process.Republican leaders in Congress have argued that Obama’s plan is a usurpation of power. LInk here for more details from the White House.
U.S. House Speaker and Republican John Boehner issued this statement: “By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement after the speech. “Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office. We will not shrink from this duty, because our allegiance lies with the American people. We will listen to them, work with our members, and protect the Constitution.”
Obama’s plan was not well received by members of Arkansas’ Congressional Delegation.
The office of U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., issued this statement: “Arkansans should be upset as well as all Americans. This is clearly an overreach of the office. The President is called ‘Mr. President,’ not ‘Your Highness.’ He simply doesn’t have the authority to do this. Congress needs to take all the tools we have in the toolbox to really push back.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said Obama’s move is not how the Democratic process is supposed to work.
“The Constitution is clear when it grants Congress the authority to make our nation’s laws, not the President. But throughout his presidency, President Obama has refused to do the job actually afforded to him by the Constitution, the job of enforcing – not creating – America’s laws. This has been especially true when it comes to immigration, and I’m astounded that tonight he’s proposed to make our immigration laws even more lax through executive fiat and skirt Congress yet again,” Womack noted in his statement. “There is no doubt our immigration system is in desperate need of reform, but President Obama’s plan does not make the reforms we need. Instead, Congress must develop a long-term immigration policy that encourages lawful behavior. As we work towards these thoughtful solutions, Obama cannot change the laws himself. That’s ‘not how democracy works.’