Barack Obama Immigration Reform Executive Order Speech: Chicago Address Heckled by Audience, President Clarifies 'Criminal' Immigrants
President Barack Obama defended his immigration executive actions in Chicago on Tuesday while reiterating his preference is for a "common-sense" law from Congress.
Obama acknowledged the bipartisan U.S. Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill that has not been picked up by the House of Representatives since June 2013.
"But until then, there are actions I have the legal authority to take that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just. And I took them last week," said Obama to applause. "They were the right thing to do."
Obama noted more resources for law enforcement will be made to "stem the flow" of "illegal crossings" at the U.S. border and increase the speed of deportations.
"We're initiating smarter reforms so high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs can stay and contribute to our economy, and I'm taking new steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live here," added Obama.
As Latin Post reported, memorandums by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson detailed the new responsibilities U.S. immigration agencies and offices will handle as a result of Obama's executive action, which includes deferment from deportation for parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who have been living in the country since Jan. 1, 2010. Most of the management will be handled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency.
Obama, however, acknowledged the undocumented immigrants should be held accountable, particularly individuals with a criminal history.
"It's a small minority, but it's a significant one. And that's why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And we'll keep focusing our limited enforcement resources on those who actually pose a threat to our security. Felons, not families. Gangs, not some mom or dad who are working hard just trying to make a better life for their kids," said Obama, who was then interrupted by an audience member.
One protestor in the audience claimed the president's comments on deportation was a lie and requested a halt on deportations. An audience member stated the issue is not about immigration reform, but about labeling individuals as criminals.
According to Obama, undocumented immigrants in the U.S. have still broken immigration laws but tracking down and deporting all these individuals "is not realistic."
"It's not who we are. It's not what America should be," said Obama.
"On the other hand -- and this sometimes is not acknowledged -- if you came here illegally, you are cutting in front of the line of the folks who were trying to come here legally -- which also is not fair," Obama added.
Obama reiterated a concept of his executive action that allows parents who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years, or are parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents, upon undergoing a criminal background check and paying taxes, to apply to stay temporarily.
Obama said, "You can come out of the shadows. You can get right with the law. This isn't amnesty, or legalization, or even a pathway to citizenship -- because that's not something I can do. That is something only Congress can do. It also doesn't apply to anyone who has come to this country recently, or might come illegally in the future -- because borders do mean something. So it's accountability."
According to Obama, the results of his executive action could add approximately $90 billion to the U.S. GDP, reduce the deficit by $25 billion and increase the labor force by nearly 150,000 people.
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