Historic Move by President Obama on Immigration Reform

November 20, 2014


President Obama addressed the nation to announce he will take executive action to lift up millions of undocumented aliens, to unite families, to push forward immigration reform.

Thousands of supporters gathered and waved American flags outside the White House as the President spoke.

The text of President's Obama's speech:
My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration. 
For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose. 
But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it. 
Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart. 
It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it. 
When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts. 
Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits. 
Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. 
Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just. 
Tonight, I am announcing those actions. 
First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over. 
Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed. 
Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country. 
I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day. 
But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants – in every state, of every race and nationality – will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours. 
As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.” 
Now here’s the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. 
That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you. 
I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. 
That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: 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. 
The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. 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. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker 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. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose – a higher purpose. 
Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character. 
Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, 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. Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future? 
Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? 
Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America? 
That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears. 
I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success. 
Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree. 
Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid – or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? 
Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too. 
My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

As an immigration reform advocate, I view this action as a first step, a huge step, a historic step in the right direction.

The U.S. Congress must act to establish a permanent solution. Advocates and nonresidents are hoping the President's action will force Republicans to take action to institute long overdue comprehensive immigration reform.

As expected, frenzied Republican members of Congress are attacking President Obama's move.  For years the have taken on the role of blocking, dividing, and fighting instead of governing. By making this move the President has said, "Enough!"

In the midst of crazy comments from right wing Republicans like, "Obama is acting like an emperor", "Jail Obama", and "Impeach Obama"  Nancy Pelosi reminded the American people that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) declared on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show tonight that he would go out now and help sign up people to register for the new program.

This is a not just a memorable day for undocumented aliens, but a memorable week for the farm workers across the country. The film, Food Chains is premiering across the nation this week. It is a documentary about the human cost of food.

Last year the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and supporters came to speak to my classes about the plight of our nation's farmworkers. They shared unedited clips from Food Chains. Much of it was filmed in Florida and highlights some protests we took part in.

This week I was honored to host Julia de la Cruz, a Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) farm worker from Mexico,  Claire Comiskey, a leader with the Interfaith Action and my friend Nico Grumbs, a leader with the Youth and Young Adult Farm Worker Ministry (YAYA). They are participating this weekend in a boycott of Publix supermarket in downtown Orlando and the premiere of Food Chains in Central Florida.

You cannot live in Florida and not be be aware of the exploitation and suffering of the migrant farm workers and their families. The farm workers put food on our plates, but do not have enough to eat. Thank a farm worker this Thanksgiving and watch Food Chains if you have the chance. (Go here.)


Green Cards for All! said...

"If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation." President Barack H. Obama.

Guam and the CNMI collect their own taxes. So will these insular governments be somehow involved in the process? Or will undocumented residents of the Marianas be overlooked?

This requires close attention by the two Delegates and our immigrant advocates.

The devil is in the details.

Anonymous said...

what will happen to legal CNMI foreign workers????some are working in some company plus paying tax but without CW1 visa from last 2 years..company gor tax problems????USCIS website showing in processing from last 1 or more years...but comapany is paying regularly..as well uscis also stop granting humanity advance parole from this company...5 workers denied after september...what about in emegengy what will happen to this innocent workers?????is this human right in USA the land of immigrant....CNMI workers are here from decades legally on hope of USA dream by CNMI officials fitial/kililli/inos...shame on people humanity...stop this abused system...shame shame USA amen

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Doromal, what about the CNMI? Are illegal foreign workers covered? Is this the first step for them, or a big back step?

Wendy Doromal said...

I was told the undocumented aliens in the CNMI are covered if they have U.S. citizen children or children who are legal residents. They should seek the assistance of an immigration attorney to assist them in applying for the temporary protection.

Wendy Doromal said...

Hello Green Cards for All. I hope all is well with you.

The Delegate and/or Bordallo would face harsh opposition if they attempt to exclude any CNMI or Guam nonresidents from this temporary reprieve.

Millions of American pay the federal taxes for the people of the CNMI. I am one of those taxpayers. I support this for people EVERYWHERE on U.S. soil. I am tired of Sabaln's mantra, "The CNMI is special", which he uses to separate the nonresidents in the CNMI from those in the U.S (and to squash human rights like in exempting asylum laws from applying to the CNMI).

The CNRA was intended to apply U.S. immigration law to the CNMI, not to continue a faulty CW Program. That law must be amended to include a status provision.

Shame on the U.S. Congress and all of the elected leaders and officials who claim that they support human rights, justice and democracy EXCEPT for when it concerns the CNMI.

Anonymous said...

everyone understand Obama is offering Parole in Place for parents of USCs or spouses of USCs. If you are in the CNMI USCIS has already offered this for parents of USCs and spouses of USCs as well as spouses of FSMs. There is nothing new for CNMI, if you are one of the above you could have already applied for Parole in Place. If you have at anytime been granted a non immigrant visa in the CNMI since 2009, such as CW-1, CW-2, B-1, B-2 etc, you have already been admitted and cannot get parole in place all of this info has been extensively covered in the local papers in the CNMI...there is nothing new out of this announcement for the CNMI......

It's not your money! said...

I am happy for the people who will get to stay and get work authorization. However, I am worried about the precedent this will establish. Will the next conservative president decide he will use his prosecutorial discretion to ignore environmental laws? Will he decide we don't need the SEC regulating stock traders? Will he decide the Voting Rights Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act are all bad for big business, and should not be enforced?

Anonymous said...

Cw 1 cw 2 could not go to US without visa to travel to USA. Will this executive order be used to visit our children in the USA.

Anonymous said...

This is great news but Green Cards is correct about details and its not your money has an equally important point in that if a Dem can bypass Congress couldn't a fascist swing the hammer back against the large and growing under class?

The 5 year date could be important here. The best thing that can happen in the CNMI is operate exactly like HI, GUM, and the mainland. CNMI only status is hogwash and special immigration laws including travel shouldn't be CNMI only

I expect Congress to do something that the President won't sign and we will table this whole issue to the 2016 Pres election.

A long time observer

Anonymous said...

So does this mean that all of the CW can just stay in the NMI with or without a job after the deadline?

Anonymous said...

Kilili’s weekly email reported this:
How President’s immigration announcement affects the Northern Marianas – President Obama announced on Thursday that he will be using his executive authority to address the situation of some of the 11 million persons who are not legally present in the United States. Although the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill in July 2013, the House of Representatives has not taken action. So the President stepped in. His action is primarily aimed at persons who do not have a legal status. In the Northern Marianas CW workers, E-2C investors, and the immediate relatives of U.S. and FAS citizens and caregivers who have been granted humanitarian parole are all legally present. But there may be some in the NMI, who have lost their legal status, who could benefit. The President’s action does not provide any new pathway to citizenship, but may make it easier for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and others eligible for naturalization by allowing the use of credit cards to pay the $680 fee. Currently, only cash, check, or money order is accepted. Further information about the President’s announcement is available at: http://www.dhs.gov/immigration-action.

Anonymous said...

Don't sing and dance yet, cuz Congress can change all this. To good to be true.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kilili-CNMI Washington DC rep admits, “U.S president’s executive order covers some undocumented people in CNMI”. He did not mention, “What is going to happen for those non-residents who have been legal in CNMI for more than a decade, paying social security taxes and have no criminal records?” I believe that Mr. Kilili realize NOW, “CW program is inhuman & discriminatory” it is a program where foreign workers are shackled or chained to take their freedom away. Will the secretary of Department of Homeland Security bring necessary changes based on executive order for the legal CNMI foreign workers? It requires 5 years for a foreigner in USA to gain real freedom? How about in CNMI? 10 Years spent under CNMI immigration system, hanging with CW program for another 10 years- still there is assurance for an improved immigration status. CNMI legislators and Mr. Kilili must be ashamed for this. What a shame on CNMI & Department of Interior?

Anonymous said...

no one is shackled to anything, planes depart the Saipan airport multiple times a day and no one is at the airport to stop anyone from leaving. lets do away with all this shackled, chained, slavery comparisons. Anyone who is unhappy with their situation in the CNMI or in the U.S. are free to leave at anytime to pursue whatever it is they believe they justly deserve if they don't think they can find it in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

The Federal immigration fantasy lives on. Just like Obamacare, Obama's executive action will have little or no impact on any foreign worker living in the CNMI. This is for undocumented aliens not documented aliens ! And why should any of these people need to consult with an immigration attorney ? What will the lawyer do for them, read the law to them at $200 an hour ? The USCIS made is clear: no attorney on island can help or protect you from the Federal government.

Anonymous said...

In the news is that 20% of young US applicants are committing fraud and that number in the CNMI is likely 75%.

From the USCIS statement “Many people say fraud is just filling out a form wrong,” adding that the feds use it to mean “willful” misrepresentation” to get a benefit.

I do not think anyone will get blanket amnesty so get your work records and documents in order.

12 years work experience can apply for an H-1 visa as that may be a possible route for some