AUSTIN, Texas — In a speech to the nation Thursday evening, President Barack Obama announced he would be moving forward with his plan to enact sweeping immigration reforms by executive order, allowing an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants to avoid deportation.
The president moved forward with his plan despite strong opposition from Congressional Republicans and lack of popular support from the American people. Obama described a series of executive actions that would allow millions of illegal immigrants in this country to avoid deportation, a plan that has been denounced as “amnesty.” The President hit back at his critics, controversially calling the current immigration system the “real amnesty.”
Obama began his remarks by describing America’s history of “welcoming immigrants” as one of the country’s greatest strengths. “Today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it,” said Obama. “All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the benefits of living in America without bearing the responsibilities,” he added, saying that it was unfair for families who follow the rules to fall behind those who come illegally.
The President touted how more agents were at the border than ever before, but failed to mention how border states like Texas have continuously requested increased support from the federal government and had been forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on their own border security initiatives. Texas state leaders announced this week an $86 million plan to extend border security operations through next August, as Breitbart Texas reported.
Obama mentioned the more than sixty thousand unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who illegally crossed the border this summer as “a brief spike” in minor immigrants, and blamed House Republicans for not passing a comprehensive immigration bill that could not even get through the Senate.
He then declared that he would be taking “actions that I have the legal authority to take as President” that would help make our immigration system “more fair and more just,” detailing three key steps. The first, would be to direct more resources to the border, including increasing the number of Border Patrol agents. The second, would be to ease work visa requirements to make it “easier and faster for high skilled graduates and entrepreneurs to stay.”
The third step, which Obama acknowledged was the most controversial, would be to “take steps to deal responsibly” with the millions who are here illegally. Obama admitted that these are people who are here illegally and “must be held accountable,” including those who are dangerous. The President did not mention how officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement admitted earlier this year that they had released thousands of dangerous criminal illegal immigrants from detention facilities, as Breitbart Texas reported.
Obama then continued, by saying that deporting illegal immigrants “isn’t who we are” as Americans, justifying it by saying that these people have been here a long time, have children here, and just want to work or study, so they should be able to stay. He described immigrant children who, but for the place of their birth, were as American as his own daughters, Sasha and Malia.
Obama’s plan would allow certain illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of deportation: if they have been in the U.S. more than five years, have children here who are citizens or legal residents, register with the government, pass a criminal background check, and pay back taxes. can stay without fear of deportation. This would not apply to anyone who arrived recently and would be just a protection from deportation, not a grant of citizenship, although many of Obama’s critics fear that is the next step.
The president denied this was amnesty. “Amnesty is the immigration system we have today,” he said, “That’s the real amnesty, leaving the broken system the way it is.” Obama called for reforms that showed “accountability” and “a common sense, middle ground approach” and claimed that his approach would be that.
Obama also claimed that this type of immigration reform via executive order was done by his predecessors in the White House. However, as Breitbart News’ Matthew Boyle reported, “The executive actions Eisenhower took on immigration, however–something the White House doesn’t mention–were mass deportation sweeps, and the executive actions that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush took were to implement congressional directives. Obama’s action is in direct contradiction to congressional directives.”
Obama challenged Congress to “pass a bill,” saying that he wanted “to work with both parties” to pass a comprehensive bill. “We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration,” concluded Obama.
Republican opposition was swift and furiously negative. On PBS’ coverage of the speech with Judy Woodruff, Congressman Darrell Issa said that Obama’s speech was sincere in its delivery, but that its policies were “not supported by law or Constitutional authority,” adding that the mechanism by which Obama’s plan would be effected was enormously complex, and would end up serving as a roadblock to future reforms. “He’s souring what should be an opportunity to pass legislation,” added Issa.
The New York Times’ David Brooks commented to Woodruff that this plan was politically explosive, noting that normally there might be a short honeymoon period after the opposition party took over Congress after a midterm election, and find a few small issues where compromise with the White House was possible. However, Obama has completely destroyed that possibility, according to Brooks, by not just jumping out with the “most controversial issue” of immigration, but by pushing unilateral action on it.
Both of Texas’ Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, have publicly denounced Obama’s executive action as an unconstitutional violation of the balance of powers between the White House and Congress. A Cruz op-ed at Politico threatened that the Senate Republicans should retaliate by refusing to act on any of Obama’s executive or judicial nominees, “so long as the illegal amnesty persists.”
Cornyn vowed that Republicans would continue to fight against Obama’s executive action. In an op-ed at National Review, he wrote, “Failing to get his way in Congress does not give President Obama the right to go around Congress. The American people strongly oppose his executive amnesty, and Republicans will take action to stop it.” In a separate statement on his website, Cornyn added, “So I wish the President wouldn’t do this. It won’t work. It’s unconstitutional. It purports to exercise a power he himself said he does not have, but he seems determined to do it, nonetheless. I believe the American people will react negatively to this President’s claim of authority to issue this amnesty and I believe then the next step is for Congress to do everything we can to stop it and then to do it the right way, not the wrong way.”
Members of Texas’ Congressional delegation were equally outraged. Representative Michael Burgess criticized the timing of Obama’s announcement, disagreeing with the President’s assessment of the “urgency” of the situation. “Frankly, there is no evidence that the 11 million people currently living in the United States illegally are at immediate risk for deportation,” said Burgess in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “In fact, the president’s comments earlier this year encouraged even more illegal and unsafe immigration that has put a terrible strain on our system in the state of Texas in particular and for the nation as a whole.” Burgess added that “the timing is also peculiar considering that just weeks ago, the American people made clear that they are unhappy with the president’s policies, power grabs and disregard for the rule of law when they overwhelmingly elected Republicans to public office,” noting that Obama had had six years to work with Congress, including two when his party had majority control.
Congressman Pete Sessions attacked Obama’s plan as “an egregious abuse of power that blatantly disregards the Constitution,” adding that “[b]lanket amnesty by executive fiat sets a dangerous precedent by encouraging those who have knowingly broken the law while ignoring Congress’ role in fixing it.” Sessions called for a plan that “first and foremost” secured the border, prosecuted and deported criminal aliens, and established a “true guest worker program that adequately safeguards our nation’s social programs.” “If the President were serious about immigration reform, he would allow the American people to work their will through their elected representatives in Congress and give us the time necessary to pass legislation to his desk,” concluded Sessions. “Instead, he has chosen to set our nation further back from achieving meaningful reform based upon the rule of law.”
Governor Rick Perry and his successor, Governor-elect and outgoing Attorney General Greg Abbott have said this week that the they were willing to file suit against the Obama administration to block the plan from taking effect.
Immediately after the speech, Perry released a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, calling the President’s plan “bad policy” and a magnet for continued illegal immigration, saying, “In Texas we know firsthand the problems brought by illegal immigration and bad federal policy. As we saw with the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who came across the border, a bad policy led to children being put at risk. The president’s decision tonight will lead to more illegal immigration, not less. It is time for the president and Congress to secure our border, followed by meaningful reforms. There is no more time for political grandstanding.”
Abbott’s statement vowed “immediate” legal action. “President Obama has circumvented Congress and deliberately bypassed the will of the American people, eroding the very foundation of our nation’s Constitution and bestowing a legacy of lawlessness,” said Abbott. “Texans have witnessed firsthand the costs and consequences caused by President Obama’s dictatorial immigration policy and now we must work together toward a solution in fixing our broken immigration system. Following tonight’s pronouncement, I am prepared to immediately challenge President Obama in court, securing our state’s sovereignty and guaranteeing the rule of law as it was intended under the Constitution.”
Polls show that Obama’s plan to take unilateral action is unpopular, lacking majority support even among Latinos. A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News showed that only 43 percent of Latinos approve of Obama’s plan, 37 percent disapprove, are 20 percent are undecided. Byron York at the Washington Examiner noted that “[a] six-percentage-point margin of approval is far short of overwhelming.” A majority of Latinos, 56 percent, did favor Congressional action on immigration reform, but a significant number still were in opposition, with 32 percent opposing congressional action, and 30 percent opposing a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally.
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