In a move causing increased controversy in America, President Obama plans to address the nation Thursday night in regard to his executive order for immigration reform. The address will be televised from the East Room of the White House. In his speech, President Obama plans to lay out the framework for giving over five million undocumented immigrants protection from deportation and work permits to remain in the U.S.
The reforms will include undocumented parents of children born in the United States, “Dreamers,” or immigrants who came to the country when they were children, and undocumented college graduates with technical skills. Supporters of the executive order, like Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), feel that having this kind of immigration reform will help the economy by keeping families together and legitimizing a sector of the workforce that is paid cash illegally and not paying taxes.
Critics of the unilateral move by the President deem this decision to be unconstitutional and outside the powers of the office. While no legislative or legal proceedings have been initiated to stop Obama from signing the immigration order, there is widespread contempt for it in the Republican party. Many Republicans are trying to sway public opinion against this order, and a recent CNN poll showed only 38 percent of Americans approve of President Obama’s decision, while over 40 percent oppose the executive order.
While there is still hope on both sides of the issue that Democrats and Republicans will come together for some sort of bipartisan reform, it is clear the President intends on acting on his own in the meantime. While Republicans like Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma disagree with Mr. Obama’s decision, he and others do not feel it is necessary to hold up passing a budget and shutting down the government just to make their point.
Other Republicans are positive the executive order on immigration will be a huge detriment to the country. Senator John Cornyn of Texas feels that the unilateral immigration reform will throw the country into a constitutional crisis that will threaten the future of the country’s democracy. Other senators and representatives in the Republican party are concerned this action will throw the country into crisis with possible violent outcomes.
Republican governors, on the other hand, vehemently oppose this immigration reform because it causes a lot of legislative issues at the state level once it is signed into law. States have to now determine how to issue driver’s licenses, manage state benefits, and whether to grant in-state college tuition to the projected five million undocumented immigrants affected by the reform. Republican governors have threatened to go to the courts over this issue. Besides the administrative issues it causes, the governors also feel that granting overnight amnesty to so many people after many spent years trying to obtain legal citizenship simply is not fair to them.
Advocates for the immigrants affected by the executive order are concerned that once the law is in place, there will not be enough resources available to guide the undocumented through the process. Mr. Obama’s proposal does not allow for federal funds to help increase legal resources for the influx of those expected to request it. It will be a similar situation to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order Obama signed in 2012. After that order was signed, there was an overwhelming need for legal assistance for undocumented immigrants.
There is also the fear that those who qualify for deportation protection will not have the resources or documentation to back up their claims. This will also put a strain on the already sparse legal help available to them.
As the President addresses the nation on Thursday night about immigration reform, the debate is sure to continue. The President’s speech will be the catalyst for a lot of change and a lot of controversy in the days to come.
By Jennifer Gulbrandsen