What Is President Obama’s Immigration Plan?

11/20/14
 
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from The New York Times,
11/20/14:

President Obama will announce on Thursday evening a series of executive actions to grant as many as five million unauthorized immigrants permits to work in the United States and temporary reprieve from deportation. The president is also expected to provide new guidance for immigration enforcement agents and make it easier for certain high-tech workers to obtain visas.

Who could be affected? The president’s plan is expected to affect four million to five million of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population, currently 11.4 million according to the Migration Policy Center.

- It would create a new program of deportation deferrals for undocumented parents of American citizens or legal permanent residents who have been in the country for at least five years.

- It would also expand a program created by the administration in 2012 called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allows young people who were brought into the country as children to apply for deportation deferrals and work permits. Currently, about 1.1 million young immigrants are eligible, and half of them have applied and been accepted.

- It would not provide a path to full legal status or benefits under the Affordable Care Act. Officials have said that the president’s plan will not provide specific protection for farm workers or parents of DACA-eligible immigrants.

Why isn’t the president waiting for Congress to act? Though he granted temporary relief to immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, Mr. Obama had in recent years emphasized the limits of his power and urged Congress to pass an immigration overhaul, which, he said, is the only way to provide permanent protection for immigrants and improve the country’s immigration laws. “The problem is, is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States,” he said during a Google Hangout last year. “My job is to execute laws that are passed.”

The Democratic-led Senate passed a comprehensive bill in June, which among other measures, included a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. The Republican-controlled House has approved several separate measures in committee, but many members say they would not support a plan that includes a path to citizenship.

Now, with Congress gridlocked over the issue, Mr. Obama has emphasized his ability to change how immigration laws are enforced. Republicans take control of Congress in January, and standing in the way of the president’s actions could hurt them politically with Latinos.

What has been the Republican reaction? Conservatives in Congress accused Mr. Obama of abusing his power and have pledged to try to stop the actions, through legislative or legal measures. “I believe his unilateral action, which is unconstitutional and illegal, will deeply harm our prospects for immigration reform,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said on Wednesday.

How do Americans feel about the issue? Half of Americans over all say that unauthorized immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States and eventually apply for citizenship. Thirteen percent say that they should be allowed to stay legally but not allowed to apply for citizenship. Thirty-two percent say they should be required to leave the country.

Democrats are much more likely to support a path to citizenship, along with Hispanics, blacks and young adults ages 18 to 29.

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