, LAS VEGAS, Nov 22 – US President Barack Obama staunchly defended his unilateral move to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation Friday, pledging to implement his controversial plan despite furious criticism from congressional opponents.
The controversial overhaul, praised by many immigration rights activists, provides three-year relief for millions of undocumented people who have lived in the country for more than five years and have children that are US citizens or legal residents.
According to the president, it also channels more resources to the US border with Mexico and shifts deportation priorities toward expelling felons.
“I have come back to Del Sol to tell you, I’m not giving up. I will never give up,” Obama insisted at the Las Vegas, Nevada high school where he launched his immigration reform efforts two years ago.
“We’re going to keep on working with members of Congress to make permanent reform a reality,” he added.
“But until that day comes, there are actions that I have the legal authority to take that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just, and this morning I began to take some of those actions.”
He wasted little time, signing two elements of the orders. READ: Republicans vow to fight ‘illegal’ Obama immigration plan.
“Don’t let all the rhetoric fool you,” Obama said, referring to repeated Republican claims that the administration has done little to beef up border security or stem illegal crossings.
Obama said the overall number of people trying to cross illegally was now at its lowest level since the 1970s.
Crucially, the reforms do not offer a pathway to citizenship, something Obama was quick to point out to the largely-Hispanic American crowd after they broke into chants of “Si se puede” — the Spanish version of his original 2008 campaign slogan “Yes we can.”
Republicans have nevertheless heaped scorn on the plan, calling it “executive amnesty,” “illegal” and “unconstitutional,” bringing tensions between Washington’s warring camps to a boil.
Already emboldened by their sweeping midterm election victory, Republicans vowed to thwart Obama’s plans.
“With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms he claims to seek,” House Speaker John Boehner declared.
“I will say to you: the House will in fact act.”