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Is Obama’s Immigration Plan Too Modest? Proposals Cover Less Than Half of Nation’s Undocumented

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President Obama is considering issuing an executive action that could protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. According to The New York Times, Obama’s executive actions will not provide any formal, lasting immigration status, but many immigrants will receive work permits, which will give them Social Security numbers and allow them to work legally under their own names. Another key component could prevent the deportation of parents whose children are U.S. citizens. Democracy Now! co-host Juan González breaks down the numbers of who will benefit from this possible executive order.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with news that President Obama is considering taking an executive action that would protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. According to The New York Times, Obama’s executive actions will not provide any formal, lasting immigration status, but many immigrants will receive work permits, which will give them Social Security numbers and allow them to work legally under their own names. Another key component could prevent the deportation of parents whose children are U.S. citizens. Speaking at a news conference in Burma, Obama vowed to take action by the end of the year.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I believe that America is a nation of immigrants. Everybody agrees that the system is broken. There has been ample opportunity for Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration bill that would strengthen our borders, improve the legal immigration system, lift millions of people out of the shadows so they are paying taxes and getting right by the law. It passed out of the Senate. I gave the House over a year to go ahead and at least give a vote to the Senate bill. They failed to do so. And I indicated to Speaker Boehner several months ago that if in fact Congress failed to act, I would use all the lawful authority that I possess to try to make the system work better. And that’s going to happen. That’s going to happen before the end of the year.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama speaking in Burma on Friday. Republican House Speaker John Boehner has vowed to fight any such action “tooth and nail.”

Meanwhile, last week, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security over Obama’s record number of deportations. The group says the agency violated the law by failing to respond to a rule-making petition seeking relief for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Before we go to our first guest, Juan, you’ve been covering this issue very closely. Talk about the significance of President Obama’s words and plans.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, the president clearly made the—he made the statement right after the election, that this was the direction he was going to go to. But what happened on Friday was that it’s becoming clearer that it’s going to happen sooner rather than later, as we head to the end of the year. But the key thing, I think, that’s being missed is that the numbers that are being bandied about, between 3.7 and 5.3 million undocumented, that number includes the 1.2 million young people that are already under a protected status, or deferred deportation, under DACA. So it’s really a much more modest number that we’re talking about. And the difference is, it’s still a question of what plan President Obama takes, whether he will require the parents of U.S. citizen children to have been here at least 10 years or five years, which would affect the final number, and whether he will include the parents of the DACA young people who have already received a deferred deportation situation. And, of course, this is all temporary, because Congress can change it at any moment. So, I think it’s actually a pretty modest proposal whichever way President Obama goes, because even at the most expansive plan, which would be about 5.3 million people, that’s still less than half of the undocumented that are in the country currently.

AMY GOODMAN: And President Obama having said in the past he’s not king, you know, sort of raising questions about whether he would issue an executive order. He’s certainly changed his tune there.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I think there’s been no question that he made—he signaled, from the beginning of the year, pretty much, that he was at some point going to act if Congress did not. So I think he’s merely following through on what his initial promise to the Congress was, if the Republicans could not pass an immigration bill, because, remember, the Senate bill that was passed more than a year ago, if there’s not an accompanying bill by the House by the end of December, that bill will be void, and then both the Senate and the House would have to start all over again in January.

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Immigrant Rights Activists Vow to Continue Fighting Deportations as Obama Prepares Executive Order

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