By Christopher Harris
President Barack Obama took a stance on the country's immigration policy Thursday afternoon (November 20) in a fifteen minute address that will affect nearly five million undocumented immigrants.
The controversial hot topic has lingered heavily throughout the President's two terms and today, he announced his plan to allow countless illegal families to stay in the U.S. under a few conditions.
"Our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it," he said. "It's been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven't done much about it."
Obama's solution involves using his executive power to give parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents the opportunity to undergo a background check and pay a $500 fee to stay in the country temporarily for up to three years. But, they aren't offered a path to citizenship and the order could technically be reversed by another president. He also removed an age limit of 30 years from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or children brought illegally into the country.
"Deferred action is not a pathway to citizenship. It is not legal status. It simply says that for three years, you are not a law enforcement priority and are not going to go after you," one senior official said. "It is temporary and it is revocable."
The Republican congress has already expressed their dismay at the president's independent actions, and threatened to stall any further legislation due to Obama's executive action. But officials argue that Obama is acting to prioritize which groups will be targeted by deportation officials—namely, criminals and threats to the state instead of families.
"By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left," Republican House Speaker John Boehner said. "Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office."
But Obama is firm in his new legislation, arguing that neither massive deportations or sweeping amnesty would solve the problem justly.
"Mass amnesty would be unfair," he said. "Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I'm describing is accountability -- a common sense, 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."
Obama reminded the country that since he's been elected, the system has improved significantly -- pointing to a 50% decrease in illegal border crossing over the past six years and lows in attempts by children.
Obama concluded his statement by saying: "We are and always will be a nation of immigrants," We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in."
Watch the full speech above.
What do you think about Obama's proposed solution? Let us know in the comments.