Republicans Criticize Obama's Immigration Actions Ahead Of Unveiling
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
President Obama will unveil executive actions on immigration tomorrow night. And on Friday, he'll address the issue at a high school in Las Vegas. Here he is previewing his remarks in a video post on Facebook.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What I'm going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.
SIEGEL: The president has long said that he would take unilateral action on immigration before the end of the year if Congress did not act. NPR's Mara Liasson joins us to discuss what all this means. And Mara, are there any other details about what the president will announce tomorrow?
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: The president is going to announce deportation relief to illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria. He's going to expand the pool of dreamers, the kids who were brought here illegally by their parents when they were very young. Right now it only affects dreamers who are in college or the military. That definition will be expanded. He'll also give temporary deportation relief to parents of U.S. citizens - people who could have been sponsored by their kids when their kids turn 21. It's important to understand what he's not doing. He's not giving these people green cards or a path to citizenship or even permanent legalization because the next president can wipe this all away if they so choose and so can this Congress if it passes legislation, which is what the president says he prefers.
SIEGEL: So then what is - what would be the practical effect of these actions, if this is what the president does?
LIASSON: Well, it could affect up to 5 million people. What we don't know is how many of these people will come out of the shadows and identify themselves as illegal. It's a risk because the next president could deport them now that they've identified themselves. This is called the take-up rate. What we do know is when the president issued the deportation relief to the so-called dreamers, not very many of them came forward until they knew that the president was going to be reelected. Then there was a surge in applications for this temporary deportation relief, and now it's at about 800,000 people.
SIEGEL: How would you describe the reaction so far to today's announcement - tomorrow's announcement?
LIASSON: Well, the reaction from Latinos and advocates is celebratory. As one advocate said to me, Latinos want respect. They don't want promises. They want action, and the dude is delivering. (Laughter) So I think there will be a lot of positive reaction among Latinos.
Republicans are very angry. They say this is an abuse of power. It's going to make it much harder to get the rank and file to vote for permanent legislation on immigration reform. They say they're going to use the power of the purse to prevent the president from doing this without shutting down the government. We're not sure exactly how they're going to do that.
The big question is what will the public think? Will they see this as an imperial power grab - executive amnesty as the Republicans are painting it, or will they see the Republicans overreacting? And the interesting thing about this is that 57 percent of people tell pollsters they believe in a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in this country. And the big question now - will the focus be on the way the president has done this, or the substance of what he has done?
SIEGEL: And just clarify one point, you said he can't issue green cards. That would exceed his authority, but there has been talk of work permits.
LIASSON: Yes - some kind of temporary work permits that allow people to - if they've met certain criteria, paid their taxes, been in the country long enough - to work without fear of deportation.
SIEGEL: OK. Thanks, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Mara Liasson.