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President Obama to grant legal status to 4.5m illegal US immigrants

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Yesterday, President Obama made a
blockbuster announcement on immigration that
got a lot of Americans divided. In his new plan,
about 4.5 illegal immigrants in the US will now
be able to get legal status and allowed to apply
for work permits. This applies to only those
who have no criminal records, have been in the
US illegally for at least 5 years and are willing to
pay their outstanding tax. The Republicans are
angry though and call it “lawless amnesty”. They
believe it will encourage more people to arrive
the US unlawfully.
“The action by the president yesterday will
only encourage more people to come here
illegally. It also punishes those who have
obeyed the law and waited their turn.”
Republican Speaker of the House said
today
But fortunately for Obama, he doesn’t need
the permission of congress to do this. It’s
called executive action – where a president can
bypass the legislature, which he has done.

There are about 11 million undocumented
immigrants in the US now and President Obama
believes that a mass deportation of these
people “would be both impossible and contrary
to our character.”
He made the controversial announcement in an
address from the White House yesterday Nov
20th You can read his full speech (It’s quite a
long one) culled from CNN:
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.

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