President Obama announced executive action on immigration reform just a couple of weeks after midterm elections that brought resounding defeat to Democrats. Among the most dominant features of the order is that close to 5 million undocumented immigrants have been granted a reprieve in their worry over possible deportation.
Speaking from the White House one week before the Thanksgiving holiday, the president laid out the central aspects of his order. These include tighter border security and an adjustment to rules surrounding immigrants with who are characterized as “highly-skilled” where workers will be granted visas. The third prong of the action is that undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria will no longer live with the daily possibility of deportation.
The president’s extension of temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants applies to the parents and families of legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens who have no criminal record and who have been in the U.S. for five years or more. However, the parents of children who qualify to stay in the U.S. under the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program aren’t among those who will be granted temporary legal status.
For undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will expand as sources say current age limits around the program will be dropped.
The president’s decision to move forward on immigration reform through executive action comes in the wake of Democrats’ defeat in the midterm elections. While a reform bill had passed the Senate, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have stalled on reform efforts.
The president addressed critics who call his executive order on immigration a grant of amnesty to those who came to the country illegally. Congressional passage of a comprehensive reform bill would make the executive action unnecessary, he said.
“Today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it,” the president said in his speech. “It’s been this way for decades. And for decades we haven’t done much about it.”
Republican criticism of the president’s executive order began even before the speech was aired. Saying President Obama’s use of executive action is akin to an emperor’s passage of dictates, those opposed reform that bypasses Congress see the move as a threat to the nation’s democracy.