President Obama delivered his much-awaited – with glee by some, contempt by others – speech on immigration on November 20, insisting that he has full legal authority as president to take executive action, all the while encouraging Congress to “pass a bill” instead, that would give immigration reform the full weight of the legislative branch.
He began by touting vast improvements in the past six years in terms of deportation of criminals (up 80 percent), reduced border crossings (cut in half), and more technology to secure the Southern border than ever.
The president outlined a three-pronged approach to makeshift immigration reform, in absence of Congressional action: 1) even more border security; 2) easier access to jobs for legal immigrants and graduates; 3) “steps to deal responsibly with millions of undocumented immigrants.”
He spoke mostly about this third proposal, which he full realizes is at the core of the controversy. He proposed the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or legal 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.
He urged those who qualify to “come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”
It is not amnesty, he declared. “Amnesty is what we have now.”
He made clear that “we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law e enforcement does every day.
“But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally.
“And let’s be honest, tracking down, rounding up and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans.
“After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard often in tough, low paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of the kids are American born or spent spent most of their lives here. And their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.
To underscore his points, Obama quoted his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, and Scripture.
He referenced Bush’s remarks while president, that these illegal aliens are “part of American life.” Then, he reminded that the Bible says “we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.”
“What I’m describing is accountability,” Obama said. “A common sense middle- ground approach. If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. 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 actions I’m taken are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century.
“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. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.”