The short address laid out what Obama was going to do with the immigration system that Obama said “is broken, and everyone knows it.”
Obama said that he prefers that a bipartisan bill — such as the legislation that passed the U.S. Senate — be presented to him to sign. However, “Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.”
Obama said that he would use the “actions I have the legal authority to take as President.” Obama noted other Presidents before him had used similar actions to address immigration.
Earlier in the day, the White House circulated the fact that every President since Dwight D. Eisenhower had used executive actions to address immigration.
Obama’s order will protect over 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation under a deferred action program, the vast majority of which are parents of legal residents. With other reforms, a total of 5 million of the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants would be protected from deportation.
According to Time magazine, using information from The Migration Policy Institute, about 34,000 immigrants would be impacted by the order. Of those, 9,000 are children and 25,000 and parents.
The order would also help streamline the process of legal immigration for highly skilled immigrants.
While the order protects undocumented from deportation, it does not provide a pathway to citizenship, what many opponents to immigration reform call amnesty.
A future President could rescind the order and seek the deportation of the undocumented immigrants.
New Mexico reaction
Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation responded to the order on Thursday night. Their full statements are below.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich
“The President’s proposal is a good first step toward fixing our nation’s broken immigration system. This executive action cracks down on illegal immigration at the border and prioritizes deporting felons rather than families. It also requires undocumented workers to pass a background check and pay their taxes. Those are common sense steps and well within the executive authority used by Presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush to deal with these same issues. However, only Congress can finish the job and fix the entire immigration system.
“Last year, the Senate passed a common-sense, bipartisan immigration bill that dramatically increases resources at our nation’s border, will grow our economy, and prioritizes keeping families together. Yet here we are, more than 500 days later, and Speaker Boehner still refuses to allow a vote on this legislation. That’s not leadership, it’s obstruction. Speaker Boehner needs to stop his activist litigation and do his job by passing legislation. If House Republicans genuinely want to fix our immigration laws and make our policies crystal clear, they would pass the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill now.
“As the son of an immigrant, I know how important reform is for families across New Mexico. Our immigrant communities have helped write the economic, social, and cultural story of America. New Mexicans are eager for a solution, DREAM Act students deserve a solution, and our economy requires a solution.
“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass a permanent solution to fix our nation’s broken immigration system. America will be better for it.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
“Over 40,000 people in New Mexico and millions more around the country are living in immigration limbo while they work and raise families here in the United States. Deporting these children and families isn’t a realistic option. We need to focus our limited resources on securing the border and going after drug dealers, gang members and potential terrorists.
“New Mexicans have seen firsthand the problems caused by House Republicans, who have dragged their feet on immigration for too long – it has been 511 days since the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive reform bill. Because the House won’t act, the president is justified in taking commonsense steps to fix our broken immigration system under existing law.
“The president is offering a temporary solution to keep families together, give employers who hire workers on visas more certainty about their workforce, and devote our limited resources to deporting dangerous criminals. It’s past time for Congress to work together on a permanent fix of our broken immigration system.”
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, as DCCC chairman:
“Tonight, President Obama outlined an important first step toward fixing our broken immigration system. The President’s announcement is about accountability. Doing nothing is de facto amnesty and the American people want accountability. For more than 500 days House Republicans have blocked a vote on comprehensive immigration reform that passed the Senate. I hope they will listen to the American people and allow us to have a vote. In the meantime, just as presidents since Eisenhower – including Reagan and Bush – have taken executive action on immigration, President Obama took an important step that will allow hard-working, tax-paying families to stay together.”
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham:
“While I prefer a comprehensive approach to reforming our broken immigration system, I understand the immediacy of acting now to keep immigrant families together and provide them with temporary protections from deportation. By granting temporary work permits and requiring immigrants to go through background checks and pay taxes, we are encouraging them to come out of the shadows and be productive members of society. This will also allow us to shift resources toward other priorities in our communities.
“However, our work is not done. Our immigration system is still broken and Congress must pass a comprehensive legislative fix that will provide a long-term solution. The President has stated that he is willing to work with Congress and that he is willing to retract his order once Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform. This is an invitation from the President to Congress to work with him to finally fix what we all agree is a broken immigration system. I urge my Republican colleagues to stop delaying this issue and to pass comprehensive immigration reform today.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce:
“President Obama’s decision to use executive powers to alter immigration policy for 5 million people is a gross abuse of power,” said Congressman Steve Pearce. “The President is choosing to ignore the bounds of his Constitutional powers and bypass Congress. Very simply, these actions are illegal and unlike those taken by any other President. This is not just my view, this is the view of many. Even Doris Meissner, the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization Service for President Clinton, noted that prosecutorial discretion does not provide the President the right to ignore current law.”
“Not only are the President’s actions disregarding the Constitution, the democratic process, and the will of the people, they are short-sighted and cruel. The innately political action by the President will have harmful and damaging effects, while significantly disheartening and disadvantaging the millions of potential immigrants following the law and waiting to enter the United States.”
“The immigration system in the United States must change. As New Mexicans, we live with the impacts of a broken immigration system. For our families, for our neighbors, and for our friends, the government must work to correct this problem. As Gov. Martinez describes in a recent Washington Times article, reform cannot be political, temporary, or self-promoting. It must be permanent and it must be based on fairness.”
“Congress must work together. We must find bipartisan solutions anywhere we can, as I have with Congressman O’Rourke. Comprehensive immigration reform is not the only option, nor does it have to be. Immigration reform, like any issue, is not too large to face, as long as we are willing to work together. While members of Congress recognize the need to fix our broken immigration system, and that differing approaches exist to accomplish this, the reality is that the President cannot just ignore our laws.”