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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Obama's plan to grant 'deferred action' to 2 groups

In his immigration speech to the nation Thursday night, President Obama said his administration will grant “deferred action” to two groups – parents of United States citizens or legal permanent residents who have been in the country for five years, and young people who were brought into the country illegally as of 2010.
Starting next spring, his administration will begin accepting applications from illegal immigrants who seek the deferred actions under Obama’s new executive action program.
Those who qualify will be granted protections for three years, Obama said, as he laid out his sweeping plan to the public Thursday night from the East Room of the White House.
“Mass amnesty would be unfair,” Obama said during the primetime address. “Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character.”
Obama, who pitched his plan as a “commonsense, middle ground approach,” said “if you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law” but warned “if you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported.”
But Republicans have been quick to criticize it and say the executive action is an example of Obama stretching his powers as president.
Even before the speech, conservatives said they were willing to do whatever was necessary to stop Obama’s plan.
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, who will become the majority leader in January when the new congressional class is sworn-in, said Obama would regret choosing to ignore the will of the American people.
McConnell, who made his statements from the Senate floor Thursday morning, has led the charge against the president and has promised a legislative fight when Republicans take full control of Congress in 2015.
“If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act,” McConnell said.
Utah Rep Jason Chaffetz, who will replace Rep. Darrell Issa as chair of the House Oversight Committee, told Fox News that the president’s timing on announcing the plan was “crystal clear.”
“It’s all about politics,” Chaffetz said. “He just got slaughtered in an election.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in an op-ed in Politico Wednesday that if Obama acts, the new GOP majority in the Senate should retaliate by not acting on a single one of his nominees – executive or judicial – “so long as the illegal amnesty persists.”
Republicans see several avenues for stopping the new actions from going forward. They might gum up any appropriations associated with them, though it wasn’t clear Thursday what that might be.
They might sue the White House in court, though legal scholars differ on whether they would have a case. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this week that his state, which spends $12 million a year securing the border with Mexico, might sue Obama, too.
“I’m open to some form of immigration reform. I’m open to expanding work visas. I’m open to a lot of ideas,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in a Wednesday interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News . “But the president can’t do this. This goes against the fundamental separation of powers that we have in our country.”
While deferred action does not confer permanent resident status on these individuals and is temporary – in the case of the young people it must be renewed every three years, according to the White House release – critics call this a blanket “amnesty” that will allow people who have come here by breaking the rules, a chance to stay forever.
“What does the president have to say to the countless aspiring immigrants who spent literally years waiting patiently in line? To the people who played by the rules? Where’s the compassion for them?” McConnell asked.
The White House said the plan was a way to bring millions of people who are already working and contributing to society out of the shadows. The government will be able to screen out criminals and allow people to work and pay taxes and in some states, access services and benefits, such as getting drivers licenses, in-state tuition and even health care. The deferred action status, however, does not afford immigrants Green Cards or access to Medicaid or other federal social service programs.
Supporters of the president’s actions have constituted an eclectic mix, with the usual immigrant groups joined with free market libertarians and business interests to get comprehensive immigration passed. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been promoting such reform, including deportation protections and work permits, because it feels such action will help fill jobs – including highly skilled positions – that remain empty.
“Welcoming immigrants is good for our economy and our society. Immigrants do not typically compete with Americans for jobs. The reality is that they create more jobs through entrepreneurship, economic activity and tax revenues,” Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donahue said in a Washington Times op-ed on Tuesday.
“Immigrants complement U.S.-born workers and can help fill labor shortages across the skill spectrum and in key sectors.”
Obama’s plan also calls for regulatory changes through the Department of Homeland Security that will help highly skilled workers with approved lawful permanent resident status to move and change jobs more easily.
The president’s plan will also be heavy on enforcement. He reiterated that the administration’s policy will be to focus its resources on “the removal of national security, border security, and public safety threats,” and make these the “highest priorities” for all DHS components. The administration is also replacing the current Secure Communities program with a new Priority Enforcement Program to work with states and localities to deporting criminals now sitting in jails and prisons.
The Department of Justice will also be initiating a new package of court reforms to help streamline a backlog of immigration court cases, according to the release. The Department of Labor will expand and strengthen immigration options for victims of crimes and trafficking who cooperate in government investigations.

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