President Obama made the case tonight that he's not offering a "mass amnesty" to immigrants who have entered the country illegally, reports CNN. In fact, he said in a speech laying out his executive actions on immigration that the "real amnesty" would be leaving the current system in place. Some highlights:
- "Mass amnesty would be unfair. 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 US illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up."
- Immigration officers will focus on "felons, not families."
- "The actions I'm taking are not only lawful, they're the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half-century."
- "To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill."
- Read the full transcript here.
As had been widely reported
, up to 5 million undocumented immigrants could gain protections, with most falling into one category: parents whose kids are US citizens or legal permanent residents. The Washington Post
reports that those who have lived here five years can submit applications in the spring and that the protections would be in place for three years. Obama, derided in advance
by Republicans accusing him of abusing his power, also said he would make it easier for "high-skilled" immigrants to remain in the country.