President Barack Obama told the American people that the time to change the nation’s immigration system is now, and he’s taking action to make that happen.
In a nationally televised address Thursday night from the White House, Obama said it doesn’t make sense to round up and deport millions of people living in the country illegally.
He said his executive actions will let them come out of the shadows, but it’s not anything close to amnesty. Obama’s plan will shield from deportation nearly 5 million immigrants now in the U.S. illegally.
Obama said that although there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children coming across the border over the summer, overall the number of people trying to cross the border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s.
The president’s moves, affecting mostly parents and young people, marked the most sweeping changes to the nation’s fractured immigration laws in nearly three decades and set off a fierce fight with Republicans over the limits of presidential powers.
In the televised address to the nation, Obama defended the legality of his actions and challenged GOP lawmakers to focus their energy not on blocking his actions, but on approving long-stalled legislation to take its place.
The main beneficiaries of the president’s actions are immigrants who have been in the U.S. illegally for more than five years but whose children are citizens or lawful permanent residents. After passing background checks and paying fees, those individuals can now be granted relief from deportation for three years and get work permits. The administration expects about 4.1 million people to qualify.
Obama is also broadening his 2012 directive that deferred deportation for some young immigrants who entered the country illegally. Obama will expand eligibility to people who arrived in the U.S. as minors before 2010, instead of the current cutoff of 2007, and will lift the requirement that applicants be under 31. The expansion is expected to affect about 300,000 people.
If you have not seen the entire speech delivered by President Obama then watch it here and be sure to participate in the poll question and leave a comment.