After six years of claiming he didn't have the authority to unilaterally change the nation's immigration laws without Congress, President Obama laid out a plan Thursday night doing exactly that through executive action.
"There are actions I have the legal authority to take as President...that will help make our immigration system more fair and just," Obama said. "Today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it."
"Some people call this amnesty, it's not," he said.
Here is a fact sheet released by the White House earlier this evening detailing Obama's executive action. It includes fast tracking Green Cards, which make individuals eligible for a slew of government welfare programs, and issues five million work permits to illegal immigrants living inside the United States.
President Obama repeatedly berated Republicans for a lack of progress on immigration reform in the House over the past two years while ignoring the previous four when Democrats had total control over the Senate.
"For a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote," Obama said, urging the GOP to bring up legislation in the new Congress.
Republicans have been pushing back against Obama's planned action all week and have already issued responses to the President's announcement tonight.
“President Obama’s executive amnesty violates the laws Congress has passed in order to create and implement laws Congress has refused to pass. The President is providing an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants with social security numbers, photo IDs and work permits—allowing them to now take jobs directly from struggling Americans during a time of record immigration, low wages, and high joblessness. This amnesty plan was rejected by the American people’s Congress. By refusing to carry out the laws of the United States in order to make his own, the President is endangering our entire Constitutional order," Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "The President’s plan will apparently also allow many illegal immigrants to receive green cards and become legal permanent residents—meaning they can access almost all U.S. welfare programs, have lifetime work authorization, obtain citizenship, and sponsor foreign relatives to join them in the U.S. Law enforcement has warned this unprecedented amnesty will unleash a ‘tidal wave’ of new illegal immigration flooding into American neighborhoods at taxpayers’ expense"
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who will lead the Judiciary Committee in the new Congress, says Obama's plan is an affront to the constitution and outside of the law.
“The President’s executive actions on immigration are the wrong way forward and disrespectful of the law. Such broad, massive legalization is an affront to the Constitution. The President himself has said that he doesn’t have authority, or that he doesn’t prefer this course of action, but yet continues to take this route," Grassley said. “The President is missing a big opportunity to enact real reform, and instead he’s poisoning the well for future action. Nobody thinks the status quo is okay. But, the President’s actions are only a Band-aid for a real problem; in fact, he’s making it worse. How does Congress move forward when the President has made it clear with tonight’s announcement that he doesn’t want to work with the elected officials in the legislative branch where reform has to happen? Unfortunately, if the American people have learned anything about this President, it’s that he has never worked well with Congress-even those in his own party. His disdain for a co-equal branch of government is very evident. It shows in executive actions like this, in regulations that the American people are solidly against, and in his and his Cabinet’s responses to Congress’ constitutional responsibility of oversight."
Moving forward, Republicans have vowed to fight Obama's executive action through defunding and the withholding of presidential nominations.
Republican Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, who will serve as the new chairman for the House Homeland Security, warns Obama's action is a threat to American democracy and vows to use his new position to stop the "unconstitutional action."
“The president’s decision to bypass Congress and grant amnesty to millions of unlawful immigrants is unconstitutional and a threat to our democracy. There is no doubt our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed, but this does not mean the president has the authority to act without Congress," McCaul released in statement. “History has proven that unilateral action on immigration simply perpetuates a cycle of illegal entry into this country. This was true under the 1986 amnesty and it has been true under DACA, which enticed 60,000 unaccompanied children to make the perilous journey across our border this summer. We will see a wave of illegal immigration because of the president’s actions, and in no way is the Department of Homeland Security prepared to handle such a surge. Furthermore, the president knows any immigration reforms will be ineffective as long as our border remains insecure. As chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, I will use every tool at my disposal to stop the president’s unconstitutional actions from being implemented.”