He will expand an existing program to avoid targeting certain young people, and create a new program to relieve undocumented parents of Americans of deportation fears, senior administration officials told reporters in the White House ahead of the prime-time announcement.
“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,” Obama said. “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.”
He also challenged the Republicans in Congress to fix immigration on their own, telling them that if they didn’t like what he was doing, the solution was simple:
“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,” he said during a prime time address on Thursday night announcing his actions. “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.”
No, he did not add “Neener, neener,” but he might as well have. The GOP is beyond furious, which is a sign that they know they’re in trouble. The more they carry on, the more we know the president’s actions are going to have an impact both on policy and politics.
The reactions stand to sharpen the contrast between Democrats and Republicans, which is particularly salient among Hispanics, who broadly support immigration relief. Pledging to overturn Obama’s actions could become a litmus test in the GOP primary, if Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other opponents demand as much. That could make life miserable for the eventual Republican nominee in the general election, where Hispanic voters, who helped give Obama two terms in office, are likely to again play an important role.
One of the things that pundits and the Village chin-scratchers have been saying since the mid-terms is that the Democratic Party has pretty much written off the white straight male voter and that it’s crucial for them to work to get them back. Sure, it would be nice if the party that stood up for unions and the working class when the Republicans were all in favor of closing plants and sending jobs overseas could get the support of the folks whose economic well-being was trashed by the party they now flock to, but the Democrats chose to support civil rights and treating the least among us as well as the richest. They’ve paid a price at the polls in Congress, but in the long term the number of people they helped and who know it is growing. The biggest fear the Republicans have isn’t hoards of undocumented immigrants in Browsnville. It’s the hoards of people in the voting booths in Toledo and Seattle and Omaha who remember who stood with them when Ted Cruz and Steve King wanted to ship them back in cattle cars.