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Immigration Executive Action Update: President Obama Outlines Executive Action Plan In Las Vegas Speech

First Posted: Nov 21, 2014 05:06 PM EST
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President Barack Obama's executive action plans on immigration reform, outlined in his 15-minute national address on Thursday and revisited in his remarks in Las Vegas on Friday, could affect up to 5 million immigrants in the U.S., many of whom are the parents or spouses of legal residents. 

The president on Thursday called his actions "a commonsense middle ground approach," as he continued to push Congress to pass a comprehensive bill reforming the country's immigration system.

"We're not a nation that kicks out strivers and dreamers who want to earn their piece of the American Dream," the president told a packed house at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas Friday. "We are a nation that gives them a chance to take responsibility...and create a better future for their kids."

"This is not just a Latino issue. This is an American issue," President Obama added. 

The Executive Actions on Immigration will crack down on illegal immigration by prioritizing deporting felons, not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S., said the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in a statement.

Those remarks were reiterated by President Obama on Friday.

"We'll keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. But that means felons, not families," Obama told the crowd in Las Vegas. 

Specifically, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be expanded from two to three years.

Parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been in the country since Jan. 2, 2010 can request deferred action, and employment authorization for three years under the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, once they've passed background checks.

The program expands the use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses, sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.   

"We didn't raise the Statue of Liberty with her back to the world; we did it with her light shining," President Obama said on Friday.

The actions will also include modernizig and improving immigrant and non-immigrant programs, and promoting citizenship education and awareness for lawful permanent residents. There will be options for naturalization applicants to use credit cards to pay the application fees. Fees have risen in recent years with the increase of biometric identification and the costs of applying are often given for a reason as to why more people are not apply for citizenship.

ICE said as the initiatives have just been announced, the new and expanded programs will take several months to implement. Immigration groups and coalitions are telling immigrant communities to start preparing by collecting documents, to try and avoid being scammed and ripped off by immigration service providers who say they can help process applications now, and for immigrants to make sure they know all the details about which programs to apply for.

In New York, there is a statewide hotline which provide free consultation for New Americans. The number is 1-800-566-7636.

Responding to the backlash from Republican legislators and critics of his decision to pass executive action on immigration, President Obama responded Friday that Congress had a solution to the situation: "Pass a bill."

"The only thing that's been standing in the way is a simple, up or down vote in the House," he said. 

However, despite the resistance he has encountered from the GOP-controlled House, and will likely find again when the new Republican-controlled U.S. Senate is sworn in, President Obama said he was not abandoning hope that a deal on immigration could be reached. 

"I will not give up. I want to keep working with Members of Congress to make reform a reality," he said.

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