President Barack Obama’s new order will save from deportation almost 800,000 illegal immigrants who were brought into the US as children.
“Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization,” President Obama said. “Now, let's be clear - this is not amnesty, this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”
He defended the order saying it was aimed at making the nation’s immigration policy more fair and more efficient - by removing the threat of deportation for young people who are low enforcement priorities.
“These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag,” President Obama said. “They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents - sometimes even as infants - and often have no idea that they’re undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver’s license, or a college scholarship.”
He urged Americans to put themselves in the shoes of undocumented young people who risk deportation. “Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life - studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class - only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak.
“That’s what gave rise to the DREAM Act. It says that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here for five years, and you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, you can one day earn your citizenship.”
President Obama further defended the DREAM Act saying that it was jointly written by Republicans and Democrats. A year and a half ago, Democrats passed it in the House, but Republicans walked away from it. In the Senate the Act got 55 votes, but Republicans blocked it.
President Obama said: “It makes no sense to expel talented young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans - they’ve been raised as Americans; understand themselves to be part of this country - to expel these young people who want to staff our labs, or start new businesses, or defend our country simply because of the actions of their parents - or because of the inaction of politicians.”
He appealed to the Congress to pass the DREAM Act this year, saying that “these kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments.”
President Obama said the country still needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform that addresses its 21st century economic and security needs.
“Reform that gives our farmers and ranchers certainty about the workers that they'll have. Reform that gives our science and technology sectors certainty that the young people who come here to earn their PhDs won't be forced to leave and start new businesses in other countries. Reform that continues to improve our border security, and lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”
Answering a journalist who interrupted his speech seeking to find out whether the measure he was introducing was the right thing to do for the American people, President Obama said it was “because these young people are going to make extraordinary contributions, and are already making contributions to our society.”
He added: “We have always drawn strength from being a nation of immigrants, as well as a nation of laws, and that’s going to continue. And my hope is that Congress recognizes that and gets behind this effort.”