President Barack Obama reveals the executive action he plans to take to fix the United States' immigration system. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) President Barack Obama imposed the most sweeping immigration reform in a generation on Thursday, easing the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants and setting up a clash with Republicans. In a White House speech, Obama rejected Republican critics who say his decision to bypass Congress and take executive action is tantamount to amnesty for illegal immigrants and urged them to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has blocked. "When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system," Obama said. "Tonight I'm announcing those actions." Republicans pounced quickly, charging Obama had overstepped his constitutional power a year after declaring he did not have the authority to act on his own. In a video released before Obama's televised speech, House Speaker John Boehner said: The president has said before that 'he's not king' and he's 'not an emperor,' but he sure is acting like one." With 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Obama's plan would let some 4.4 million who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents remain in the United States temporarily, without the threat of deportation. "We'll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country," Obama said. Those undocumented residents could apply legally for jobs and join American society, but not qualify for insurance under the president's signature healthcare law. The measure would apply to those who have been in the United States for at least five years. An additional 270,000 people would be eligible for relief under the expansion of a 2012 move by Obama to stop deporting people brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents. Obama said in his speech that the real amnesty would be "leaving this broken system the way it is." Trying to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally was not realistic, he added. "What I'm describing is accountability, a common-sense, middle-ground approach," he said. "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." Senior administration officials said Obama would shift law enforcement resources from the interior of the country to the U.S. border and that recent border crossers would be sent back. Deportation efforts would focus largely on gang members and violent criminals, instead of families. "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," Obama said. Administration officials described Obama's actions as the biggest shift in immigration policy since 1986 changes by President Ronald Reagan.