Obama vows executive action over immigration reform

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Immigrants working in field

WOOSTER, Ohio — Responding to Congressional inaction over the issue of immigration, President Obama spent the past week announcing his plans for executive action.

On Nov. 19, he addressed the nation, outlining four major points of action that would include tighter border security, deporting felons, allowing immigrants to register and stay on a temporary basis, and expanding work authorization for high-skilled workers who are in line for a green card.

The registry program would apply to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants who have been in the country more than five years. They would be required to pass a background check and pay taxes, to avoid deportation, and would not receive the same benefits as American Citizens.

The president’s plan comes after years of disputes between the Senate and House, about the best way to handle the nation’s nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants. The Senate has most recently argued for a comprehensive bill, which it approved in 2013, while the House has sought to address the matter one piece at a time.

Pass something

To his critics, who say he’s gone too far, Obama said, “I have one answer: pass a bill.”

He said he wants to work with both political parties to find a more permanent solution.

“I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law,” he said. “But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as president”

Republicans dispute his authority and have vowed a wide range of response.

“The action he’s proposed would ignore the law, would reject the voice of the voters, and would impose new unfairness on law-abiding immigrants — all without solving the problem,” said Sen. Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a released statement.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House “will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country and places lives at risk.”

Plans to act

But Boehner, whose state includes thousands of farm workers who are affected by immigration laws, said “the House will in fact act,” and added that “we ought to do it in a democratic process.”

That’s the same goal of most farm groups who responded to the president’s plan, arguing that executive action would not solve the problem.

United Fresh, the nation’s largest produce trade group, which represents farmers who rely on immigrant labor, said the executive order “may provide some minimal relief,” but that it doesn’t address long-term solutions, which only Congress can do.

“Congress has said that the President has overstepped his authority. Our message to Congress, therefore, continues to be step-up to the challenge and legislate. Bottom line, we believe both sides need to ratchet down the rhetoric and come to the table to get this done in 2015.”

And, so do others within the farm community.

Congressional action

The National Milk Producers Federation, which represents dairy farmers who use immigrant labor, said executive action would “not solve the current or future needs” of dairy farmers.

“We still need congressional action, in the form of comprehensive legislative reform,” said NMPF, in a released statement.

Likewise, the American Farm Bureau Federation said “we do not expect the president’s initiative to help America’s farmers” deal with the challenges they face.

However, AFBF said the nation loses millions of dollars in fruit and vegetable production every year because farmers cannot find the labor to harvest all their crops.

“Congress and the president must work together to find a solution that works for America,” AFBF said.

While the president is calling on a way to make undocumented immigrants legal, he said it’s not amnesty. They would be required to meet specific requirements of living here on a temporary basis, and pay any taxes they owe.

“Amnesty is the immigration system we have today,” Obama said. “Millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.”

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