Obama calls plan 'lawful action' to protect 5M immigrants - USA TODAY

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President Obama's allies and critics began lobbying the public early as he put the final touches on a major immigration address on Thursday.

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USA TODAY’s Alan Gomez talks with Political Editor Paul Singer and shares 3 key details of Obama’s immigration plan.

Video Transcript Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)00:02 Paul singer Paul consider it USA today here Rick Allen
00:06 Gomez are immigration reporter. Allan we've learned more about what the
00:10 president is announcing on immigration you have written before about this
00:13 could be winners and losers. What do we know now who
00:15 are the winners will be protector deportation and who will floppy.
00:19 The winners or undocumented immigrants who have US citizen children or
00:24 children Wear green cards. That's going to be a pool about
00:26 four and a half million people when they will be able
00:29 to register with the federal government and be protected from any
00:31 deportation for a period of three years. Losers or people who
00:35 undocumented immigrants have been here for long periods of time. Or
00:38 parents of kids who've been. Legalized under previous Obama administration. Order.
00:44 Dreamers these kids have registered with federal government a couple of
00:47 years ago and protected from deportation. Their parents aren't going to
00:50 be part of this either. I'm and do we also have
00:54 other provisions on like border security things that the Republicans were
00:58 concerned about making sure were being addressed. Yeah Rami Republicans throughout
01:01 the immigration debate have been mostly concerned with securing the border
01:04 ensuring that another wave of it though the legal immigrants hasn't
01:07 come across. I don't think this is really given to what
01:10 the president is proposing right now is to re direct some
01:13 of the existing resources that test. Border Patrol agents. US attorney's
01:18 immigration judges and send them down to the border to speed
01:21 up deportations of people who were being cut now people recent
01:24 border crossings be will be crossings last few months. So I
01:28 don't know if that's couldn't quite satisfied that the senate last
01:30 year pass an immigration bill writing 20000 Border Patrol agents he
01:33 doesn't have the power do that's what he's doing what he
01:35 can. But us are gonna come close to satisfy them. And
01:38 and this is just moving around resource with in the current
01:40 budget correct there's that he can't actually spent more money than
01:44 than they already have authorized exactly he can't. He kept all
01:47 the sudden Sam and hire 101000 new Border Patrol agent since
01:50 and that's what he's doing is taken the agency has. Maybe
01:53 taken some from the northern border may be breed appoint folks
01:55 that are at airports and seaports things like that. And shifting
01:58 until at southwest border to focus more on those of those
02:01 ways of people are coming across. There's been some conversation also
02:05 about high tech workers these are high skilled foreign workers is
02:10 the president action also grew addressed those those people. Yes and
02:14 again because he's sort of limited what you can do there's
02:17 there's only so much he can do but what they are
02:19 going to. Change or a lot of regulations and all the
02:22 requirements for these folks basically to make it easier for them
02:24 to get into the country and stay here once they're here.
02:27 So for example one of things are gonna do is allow
02:30 for. Foreign workers with a high tech skills computer programming inspiring
02:34 things like that. It once or sponsored in the get into
02:37 the country right now it's really hard for them to get
02:39 a different job they have to get sponsors to pony application
02:42 process sometimes have to leave the country before coming back to
02:44 that new employer. Now we're gonna him portability which allows him
02:47 to stay here and get a new job easier. They're gonna
02:50 change or requirements for getting those pieces make an easier for
02:53 them to get in here to prove their worth to prove
02:55 why they need to be in this country. So that's gonna
02:57 open a lot of doors for Silicon Valley for a lot
02:59 of tech companies to bring in workers from abroad. But none
03:02 of the supplies to Accra cultural workers who are coming across
03:05 the borders are correct exactly that's one area where the president
03:07 is really limited what he can do. The one the only
03:10 debate that requires a completely. Complete restructuring of the agricultural immigration
03:15 system. And there is some question as to how much he
03:18 can do so there's no provision so far laid out to
03:21 address agricultural workers and get more of those workers to work
03:24 on the farms and ranches and wineries in the United States.
03:27 That farmers say they need but they are pretty much acknowledged
03:31 that they need to congressional fixtures. Congo with thank you very
03:34 much for covering this for a smoke touched.

WASHINGTON — President Obama took a historic, legacy-defining step Thursday night when he announced a plan to protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, infuriating Republicans but satisfying immigrants who have fought for years for such relief.

The president's plan will allow undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, known as green card holders, to legally live and work in the country for a period of three years. He expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children who are eligible for protected status.

The plan makes it easier for foreign workers trained in high-tech fields to enter, and stay in, the country. And it refocuses the nation's entire immigration enforcement apparatus on a much smaller pool of immigrants — those with criminal records, ties to terrorist organizations or gangs and people who crossed the border in the past year.

"Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I'm describing is accountability — a common-sense, middle-ground approach," Obama said from the East Room of the White House. "If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you're a criminal, you'll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up."

Republicans in Congress promised to do everything in their power to block the president's actions. Some have called for impeachment. Some want to sue the president in federal court. As Washington is in the middle of debating next year's budget, some want to use Congress' power of the purse to defund his move.

"By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office. We will not shrink from this duty, because our allegiance lies with the American people. We will listen to them, work with our members and protect the Constitution."

Obama said he was forced to act because of Congress' inability to pass a bill to overhaul the nation's broken immigration system.

The Senate passed such a bill last year that would have allowed 8 million undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens and dedicated $38 billion to increase border security. That bill was rejected by Boehner, and the chamber failed to consider any plan of its own.

There is serious disagreement over the legality of Obama's move.

The White House pointed to the actions of previous presidents, including Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, who issued executive orders granting legal status to migrants. The White House counsel's office has vetted the plan, and it is confident the orders can withstand legal scrutiny.

"The actions I'm taking are not only lawful, they're the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half-century," Obama said.

The Republican position: Reagan and Bush did executive orders as adjustments to a congressional immigration bill passed in 1986, while Obama is going around Congress. Some described the new executive orders as a political power grab designed to appeal to Hispanic voters.

GOP members pointed out that, in recent years, Obama himself has questioned whether he has the legal authority to defer deportations.

"President Obama is going rogue, doubling-down and driving full-speed towards a constitutional crisis," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that handles immigration legislation. "By assuming legislative power and ignoring the limitations placed on his authority, President Obama threatens to unravel our government's system of checks and balances and imperils individual liberty."

The president's plan will focus first on granting protections to nearly half of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Obama created a program in 2012, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to register with the federal government, pass a criminal background test and pay a fee in exchange for temporary legal status and a work permit.

The new plan expands that program to include undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and green-card holders. None of the beneficiaries of Obama's plan would be eligible for U.S. citizenship or green cards, but they will receive work permits, Social Security numbers and have the guarantee that, unless they commit a serious criminal offense, they will not be deported.

The plan does not include any relief for parents of DACA recipients, nor does it help childless undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for long periods of time, two populations that immigration advocacy had been hoping to protect.

The administration will change regulations that dictate how foreign workers trained in high-tech fields can enter, and stay in, the country.

Before, foreign workers were sponsored by American employers, but it was a difficult process to find a new job and start over with a new employer. Obama's plan will allow for more "portability," making it easier for them to find different jobs.

The new plan will change the way foreign entrepreneurs can enter the country. They must prove they will invest a certain amount of money – for some visas, that can range up to $1 million. Under the new plan, entrepreneurs can use American investors as their basis to get into the country.

The plan does not include expansions of programs that deal with lower-skilled workers that would benefit the agriculture, construction and retail industries, which have requested new rules for years.

The bill would change the way the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice deal with immigration enforcement.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson will lay out a set of immigration enforcement priorities, ensuring Border Patrol agents, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers and U.S. attorneys will focus their deportation efforts almost exclusively on undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to national security, are members of gangs or have serious criminal records.

"Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who's working hard to provide for her kids," Obama said. "We'll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day."

Homeland Security will alter and rename a controversial program called Secure Communities that allows police agencies to check whether people they're arresting have outstanding immigration violations on their record. The new program will be called Priority Enforcement Program, or PEP.

Before, anybody arrested who had immigration violations had an automatic "detainer" placed on them, allowing an ICE officer to come pick them up. Now, immigration violations will only trigger a "notification," and ICE officers will pick them up only if they fit into one of the new, more limited enforcement priorities.

Obama said he wants to work with Congress on a legislative bill that would supersede the executive orders.

"I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary," Obama said. "Meanwhile, don't let a disagreement over a single issue be a deal breaker on every issue. That's not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn't shut down our government again just because we disagree on this."

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