Immigration Reform from the White House

From IIP Digital:

Immigration Reform, explained by the White House.
Immigration Reform, explained by the White House.

Washington — In a November 20 televised address to the American people, President Obama laid out his plan to improve border security and enforce current immigration law more effectively within the scope of his executive authority, declaring his unwillingness to leave “this broken system the way it is.”

“Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character,” Obama said. “What I’m describing is accountability — 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.”

Despite broad consensus among elected officials and the general public that current U.S. immigration law needs a major revision, lawmakers have been unable to agree on appropriate reforms, even with pressure from the White House during both the Obama and the George W. Bush administrations.

Under the U.S. system of democracy, only Congress can enact laws. The executive branch is charged with implementing and enforcing those laws. Historically, the scope of executive authority has been a contentious issue in the United States, as Congress typically interprets that authority more narrowly than does the president.

In advance of the president’s address, several congressional leaders had already charged the president with exceeding his authority.

“The actions I’m taking 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,” Obama said. “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.”

Obama’s immigration accountability executive actions aim to “secure the border, hold nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants accountable, and ensure that everyone plays by the same rules,” according to a White House fact sheet.

The president said he will prioritize “deporting felons not families,” and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay U.S. taxes as they register to temporarily remain in the United States without fear of deportation.

Three critical elements of the president’s executive actions are:

• Cracking down on illegal immigration at the border by increasing the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back.

• Deporting felons, not families by focusing on deportation of people who threaten national security and public safety.

• Ensuring accountability by requiring undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than five years and are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to register, pass criminal and national security background checks, pay their fair share of taxes, and temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation for three years at a time.

Obama said he will also streamline legal immigration to boost the U.S. economy and promote naturalization for those who qualify.

Even though the population of undocumented individuals in the United States grew from 3.5 million to 11 million people from 1990 to 2007, the size of the undocumented population has not grown since 2007, according to the White House.

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