Immigration activists will gather in downtown Los Angeles today in response to President Barack Obama’s executive order aimed at protecting millions of people living in the country illegally from deportation.
Obama, who announced details of his plans at the White House Thursday, will be rallying with supporters at an event in Las Vegas at about 1 p.m.
Obama pressed Congress to pass immigration legislation but also noted that every president over the past 50 years has taken similar action. He even quoted his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, who said of immigrants, “They are a part of American life.”
“Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society,” Obama said. “… We have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country and who we want to be for future generations.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, said Obama’s order will allow 5 million immigrants to “come out of the shadows, have background checks, pay taxes and be held accountable.”
“In addition, the president has made the wise decision to devote our scarce federal resources to deporting dangerous criminals and others who pose a real threat to public safety and national security. These actions will make us safer as a society and stronger as a nation,” she said.
The White House says Obama’s order will shield roughly 5 million immigrants from deportation and lead border authorities to target “felons, not families.”
The order will allow immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to request relief from deportation and authorization to work for three years. To qualify, they must have been in the country for more than five years, pass a criminal background check, pay fees and show that their child was born prior to the issuance of the executive order.
Once qualified, they will also have to pay taxes.
The executive order will also expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, by removing the upper age limit of 30. The DACA program will also be amended to offer three years of protection from deportation, up from the previous two years.
Obama’s order shifts additional resources to the border and establishes enforcement priorities designed to “increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back.” It also calls for changes to address the backlog of pending immigration court cases.
The order stresses that deportation actions will focus on people “suspected of terrorism, violent criminals, gang members and recent border crossers,” according to the White House.
“You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is,” Obama said.
The president blasted Republicans who might call his order “amnesty.”
“Well, it’s not,” he said. “Amnesty is the immigration system we have today.”
Republican leaders in Washington, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, have said congressional progress on immigration has stalled due to the GOP’s belief that Obama will fail to enforce whatever laws are enacted.
They say his decision to act by executive order torpedoed all hope that Congress will pass immigration legislation, and they have vowed to attempt to overturn it.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich called the president’s action “a tax-supported welfare program that rewards those who have broken the law.”
“Amnesty is not immigration reform,” he said. “Instead, we need a more streamlined system for legal immigration, a guest worker program, greater border security and enhanced coordination of federal and local law enforcement to relieve the catastrophic economic impact faced by local government.
“While legal immigration has benefited our county economically and culturally, illegal immigration reduces the quality of life and forces our citizens and legal aliens to pay for the impact on our criminal justice, education and health-care systems,” he said.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has said Republicans in Congress never expressed outrage when President Ronald Reagan legalized 3 million immigrants in 1986 or when President George H.W. Bush halted deportations of more than 1.5 million people.
“I’ll tell you, President Bush’s Family Fairness policy, the executive action he took, was sweeping,” Boxer said. “It affected more than 40 percent of the undocumented population in the United States at the time. He thought big, George Bush Sr., he thought big. And this president should think big.”