President Barack Obama said Wednesday he plans to keep his promise of using his executive powers to improve border security and offer deportation relief to undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
Speaking from the White House, Obama said he is prepared to work with Republican leaderslike soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehnerand Democrats on coming up with an immigration reform bill. But he added that in the absence legislation, he is going to act.
Im eager to see what they have to offer, but what Im not going to do is just wait, the president said. I think its fair to say that Ive shown a lot of patience and have tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible, and Im going to keep doing so. But in the meantime lets figure out what we can do lawfully through executive actions to improve the functioning of the existing system.
Obamas remarks came a day after Republicans clinched control of the Senate. Some Senate Republicans have already warned that they will do everything they can to stop the president from taking executive action on immigration.
In a press conference of his own, McConnell said it would be a mistake for Obama to circumvent Congress and act on his own on immigration.
The president acknowledged on Wednesday that there are Republicans who dont agree with him acting on his own on this issue. But he said that if Congress acts, his executive actions will essentially go away.
I think that the best way, if folks are serious about getting immigration reform done, is going ahead and passing a bill and getting it to my desk, he said. And then the executive actions I take will go away. They are superseded by the laws that I pass.
He then stressed that waiting is not an option and that there are costs to waiting.
He also expressed his support to creating a pathway for undocumented immigrants with strong ties to the U.S. to become legalized. He wasnt specific on what he plans to do to provide relief for them. But previous reports show he is likely to implement an order to grant work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants similar to what he did with undocumented youth through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012.
Immigration advocates were angry with Obama when he delayed action until after the elections. They are now pressing Obama to deliver on his promise.
President Obama needs to move immediately on his promise to grant administrative relief to immigrant families that have waited too long for immigration reform, and it is encouraging to hear him repeat his pledge to act before the end of the year, stated Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota. Republicans, meanwhile, now have the burden of governing and delivering an immigration reform bill that the president can sign.
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, also welcomed Obamas latest remarks and pressed him to act without further delay.
No more excuses, she stated. The president has ample constitutional authority to do whats right, both from a political and policy perspective, by creating a process for aspiring citizens to apply for the opportunity to work lawfully and contribute more fully to their communities.