“Our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it,” said President Barack Obama in an address to the nation on Thursday. He promised an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S., for now, through new executive actions.
His actions will grant:
- Undocumented parents the ability to stay if their children are U.S. citizens or green card holders and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years.
- Easier access for high-tech workers to enter and stay in the U.S.
- Changes to border control enforcement, focusing on unauthorized immigrants who crossed the border in the past year, those with criminal records and those who have ties to gangs or extremist networks.
Obama has been taking heat for months for his deportation policies and for not taking executive action on immigration. Last year a comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate died in the House.
House Republicans have favored a piecemeal approach, tackling issues like border security, high tech visas and a streamlined adjudication system with separate pieces of legislation.
House Speaker John Boehner’s reaction to the plan was swift and not surprising. He said, "We will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country. With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek.”
According to the latest polls by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. public seems closely divided on the topic, with 48 percent of respondents saying they don’t support the move and 38 saying they do; 14 percent said they had no opinion.
Obama signed the executive actions at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas on Friday afternoon. The site had political significance, since Nevada is home to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and has a large Hispanic population. Also, the high school is where Obama unveiled his vision for immigration reform shortly after he was sworn in for a second term.
We consulted a panel of experts for the Inside Story.