Immigration order spurs conflicting responses
Ana Temu Vidrio's stepfather woke up the morning of Nov. 20 in a good mood before leaving for work, the young woman said the following day.
President Barack Obama announced on Nov. 20 that he would take steps to protect millions of undocumented immigrants like Vidrio's stepfather from the threat of deportation.
“Yesterday, he couldn't wait to get out the door and tell his co-workers this announcement was coming,” she said during a Denver press event where she was joined by dozens of other energized immigration-reform activists who praised Obama's action.
“I love this president,” said one woman, speaking in broken English and pointing to an Obama sign that read, “Gracias Senor Presidente.” Others around her chanted, “Si, se puede!” — the Spanish translation of Obama's famous “Yes we can” campaign rallying cry that dates back to Cesar Chavez.
The night before, Obama delivered on what he had been hinting at for months — that he would take executive action on certain areas of federal immigration policy, a response to Congress' continuing failure to pass immigration reform.
Obama's moves will add more border resources and also will make it easier for high-skilled workers, college graduates and entrepreneurs to stay in the country.
But the key and controversial component of Obama's actions will allow millions of undocumented immigrants to “come out of the shadows” and have the ability to stay in the country temporarily, without the threat of deportation.
During a nationally televised address, Obama emphasized that his actions will not apply to every immigrant living in the country, only to those who have lived here for at least five years and who have no criminal history, among other provisions.
The president said his actions will better allow agents to prioritize deportations, focusing on security threats rather than mothers and fathers who are here to work.
“Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who's working hard to provide for her kids. We'll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day,” Obama said.
Obama said that his action does not grant citizenship or the right to stay in the country permanently.
“All we're saying is we're not going to deport you,” he said.
The president said his action — which he described as within his legal authority — was a result of inaction on the part of Congress.
Congress has yet to send a comprehensive immigration reform measure to Obama's desk. The Senate passed a bill last year, but it has yet to receive a vote on the House floor.
“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,” Obama said.
But some Republicans stated that Obama's action now makes it impossible for an immigration reform measure to get to his desk.
“President Obama wants a partisan political wedge issue, not meaningful, sensible, compassionate immigration reform,” said Republican Congressman Mike Coffman, who represents Colorado's 6th Congressional District. “The president's unilateral actions will make it harder for Congress to fix the immigration system, and the worst part is — that seems to be exactly his intention.”
State Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call blasted Obama's “outrageous decision to do an end run around Congress.” Call said Obama's moves are particularly audacious, considering how many Democrats suffered losses nationally during the recent midterm elections.
“President Obama is thumbing his nose at the American people, ignoring the clear message they sent just two weeks ago when they elected Republicans to control both chambers of Congress,” Call said.
Republicans claim Obama has exceeded his executive powers through his actions. But several other presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, have taken similar measures.
They include Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who also took executive action to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.
In a speech in Las Vegas the day after his announcement, Obama countered Republicans' claim that his perceived overreach will make passing immigration reform more difficult.
“Why? I didn't dissolve Parliament,” Obama quipped. “That's not how the system works.”
Obama received praise from Democratic Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, as well as from local House Democrats.
“In the face of legislative inaction, the president was forced to move the country forward,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter, who represents the state's 7th Congressional District.
Vidrio agrees. The young woman, who is a U.S. citizen and a college student, expressed the relief that will come to her stepfather as a result of Obama's moves.
“I am very happy that my stepfather will no longer have to live in fear driving my brother to school or even the store or work because of the president's announcement yesterday,” she said.