On Nov. 20, President Barack Obama gave an impassioned speech concerning his plans for overhauling the U.S. immigration system, and it proved to be a historic victory for immigration reform supporters and activists across the nation. Obama gave the 15-minute address from the East Room of the White House, revealing that he will provide deportation protection for millions of undocumented immigrants.
What’s in store for immigration reform?
During the prime-time speech, the president announced his plan to temporarily guard 5 million undocumented immigrants from being deported. Those who will receive deportation deferment include children who were brought to the country without documentation by their parents (also known as “DREAMers”) as well as the parents of kids who have U.S. citizenship. After passing a background check and paying a fee, these people will be able to work legally in the U.S. In summary, Obama’s executive action:
- Protects any child who was brought to the U.S. without documentation before Jan. 1, 2010.
- Delays deportation of undocumented immigrants whose children are legal residents or citizens.
- Instructs immigration officials to focus on deporting criminals and threats to national security.
This executive action is not the equivalent of amnesty, according to Obama, as it does not provide undocumented immigrants with a path to legalization.
During the announcement, the president emphasized the fact that America is a nation of immigrants, founded and developed by those who came to find a better way of life. However, he also recognized the need to deal responsibly with those who pose a threat to national security and have committed felonies.
“Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws,” Obama said. “Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why 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 enforcement does every day.”
Onward to Las Vegas
Toward the end of his speech, Obama discussed his trip to Las Vegas, scheduled for Nov. 21, and noted that he will be meeting with some of the DREAMers that this executive action will protect, keeping their families together. One young woman he will meet with is Astrid Silva, who was brought to the country at the age of 4 and lived much of her life hiding her heritage in fear that she would be deported. Despite a difficult life as an undocumented immigrant, she succeeded in school – Astrid is now earning her third college degree – and went on to become an active voice in support of immigration reform.
“Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid, or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?” Obama asked during his speech. “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.”
During his trip to Las Vegas, Obama will visit Del Sol High School and rally support for his executive action. Immigration Direct will report on the president’s visit, and you can sign up for the Immigration Direct newsletter to stay informed of updates concerning immigration reform.