By Vania Andre
In the strongest move on immigration policy of his presidency, President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday night to significantly increase deportation relief for roughly 4.4 million undocumented immigrants living the United States. The executive order will protect parents and those who came to the U.S. as children from being deported to their native countries.
“Mass amnesty would be unfair,” he said. “Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character.”
Under the bill, undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. for more than five years will be able to apply and stay in the country temporarily, without fear of deportation. Applicants would be required to pass a criminal background check and be willing to pay their “fair share of taxes.” In his speech, Obama made sure to clarify who would not be eligible for this program.
“This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future,” he said. “It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive — only Congress can do that.
“All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.”
The new policy, which will be signed into law on Friday, also calls for increased border protection and allows for an easier process for “high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy.”
“We applaud President Obama’s decision to extend protections to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants, who want nothing more than the chance to live safely and freely with their families, while contributing to our local and national economy,” the Haitian American Caucus said in a statement about the decision. “Many of those undocumented immigrants include individuals in the Haitian community.”
Some Republican critics of the new policy have threatened to take legal action against the Obama administration for the reforms. They argue the president’s move hurts future efforts of bipartisanship.
The president is acting alone, House Speaker John Boehner said in video posted on YouTube. “That is not how democracy works.”
America is a nation of immigrants, Councilman Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn) said. Williams represents one of the largest Haitian communities in the U.S. “We should celebrate the protections granted to the millions of law-abiding immigrants who now have a path to come out from the shadows without fear of deportation.”