Obama orders sweeping immigration overhaul
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Obama orders sweeping immigration overhaul

New immigration policy focuses on deporting criminals, not lawful citizens

By Joe Friedrichsen | Echo

President Barack Obama ordered one of the largest sweeping overhauls of the immigration system in decades, following a primetime address to the nation Thursday night.

In the address, Obama rejected conservative claims that he’s overstepping his executive power by moving to shield five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. He argued he felt compelled to take action without the consent of Congress because House Republican leaders refused to hold a vote on an immigration bill passed in the Senate over 500 days ago.

“I know some of the critics of the action call it amnesty. Well, it’s the not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today,” Obama said.

A key element of Obama’s plan is shifting U.S. immigration enforcement priority to focus on deporting criminals like gang members, felons and suspected terrorists, rather than law-abiding undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and residents.

Obama also said the plan will require undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who’ve lived in the country for five-plus years to pass a background check and pay taxes to temporarily stay in the U.S. for three years. But these people will not be eligible for federal benefits or health care programs and will not be offered paths to eventual citizenship.

Though these measures are unilateral, a future president can still theoretically reverse them.

According to CNN, administration officials insist Obama’s moves are lawful and constitutionally sound, despite conservatives accusing Obama’s actions of being an unlawful overreach of his authority as president.

“The actions you see here reasonably sit within his powers,” one senior administration official said. “I think that they are bold and they are aggressive but they are in keeping with precedent.”

Following the announcement, Republicans are currently deciding on a response. Some ideas being tossed around range from a government shutdown to holding up Obama’s nominees in the Senate.

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