President Obama laid out his administration’s plan to stop deporting illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who meet certain requirements during a speech in the White House Rose Garden Friday.
“These are young people who study in our schools…play with our kids,” he said. “They are Americans in their hearts, their minds, in every single way except one – on paper.”
Illegal immigrants will avoid deportation and be eligible for work permits if they arrived in the U.S. before age 16, are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military.
The president said this was just one more step “to mend our nation’s immigration policy and to make it more fair and more just,” as well as a continuation of his administration’s general illegal immigration policy, including prioritizing border control and seeking prosecution of illegals with criminal records.
“It makes no sense to expel talented young people, who for all intensive purposes are Americans...simply because of the action of their parents or the inaction of Congress,” Obama said.
The president kept up his line of attack on Congressional Republicans, as he has done in most of his recent appearances, campaign and otherwise, blaming them for the failure of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.
Obama noted that this is a temporary “stop-gap” measure that does not offer amnesty, immunity, or a path to citizenship for these young illegal immigrants.
"Preciously because this is temporary, Congress still needs to act," he said.
The president's speech was interrupted by someone shouting questions. He was later identified as reporter Neil Munro from The Daily Caller. The president firmly told him it wasn't time for questions and continued. Later, Munro interrupted him again, causing the president to raise his voice.
"The next time I’d prefer you’d let me finish my statement before asking that question...I didn’t ask for an argument," the president shot back.
Shortly before Obama gave his speech, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) threatened to sue the president should his administration’s policy be enacted.
“I will tell you that — I’m not without experience on this — I’m prepared to bring a suit and seek a court order to stop implementation of this policy,” King said to Mike Huckabee while appearing on the former Arkansas governor’s radio show.
Conservatives have come out against this shift in immigration policy announced Friday, criticizing the work permits as a form of amnesty.
“President Obama’s attempt to go around Congress and the American people is at best unwise and possibly illegal,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the latest orchestrator of a renewed version of the DREAM Act, toed a careful line in reaction to Obama’s announcement.
“There is broad support for the idea that we should figure out a way to help kids who are undocumented through no fault of their own, but there is also broad consensus that it should be done in a way that does not encourage illegal immigration in the future,” Rubio said in a statement.
Additional reporting by Amanda Sakuma