Obama's Immigration Action: Explanation & Reaction

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President Barack Obama laid out his executive action on immigration yesterday. You can read his whole speech here or check out a breakdown of the elements prepared by the White House here. Talking Points Memo breaks down what it all means here.

Here's reaction from various Arizona elected officials:

Southern Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva:

Today marks a turning point for our nation. After a grueling journey that has both pained and united so many, we are beginning to turn the page on this chapter of our history. I am proud of President Obama for standing by his word, and standing with immigrant communities tonight. He has proven himself a devoted American leader. The actions he announced will provide relief for millions of people who want nothing more than to be our fellow citizens and contribute to our society. The price of entry to the United States of America should not be severed family ties, exploitive employment, or the fear of deportation. These executive actions will help ensure that is not the case for millions of deserving people.

The President’s actions are not all-encompassing — they are a strong starting point with clear opportunities to build from. He acted within the confines of the law, knowing that overreaching would bring legal challenges that could undo the entire effort. The result is historically significant and politically brave action that moves our country forward. I am confident that, in implementing these actions, the administration will do what is right and just to ensure our border communities do not unnecessarily suffer under the facade of security.

Republicans who will undoubtedly attack the president’s plan must recognize that his actions are a direct result of the GOP’s lack thereof. But the relief provided by executive action is temporary and restricted in scope. This journey will endure until a permanent, legislative solution provides a humane and functional immigration system.

This country was built on the hopes and dreams of people coming here in search of a better life. It was made great by the ideas and cultures they brought from every corner of the globe. Tonight, President Obama helped keep that rich heritage alive and well in the United States of America.

Sen. John McCain:

I agreed with President Obama last year when he stated that taking executive action on immigration was ‘not an option’ because it would amount to ‘ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally.’

I regret that he has reversed his position today by ordering executive action which not only lacks legal justification, but will set back important bipartisan efforts to reform our broken immigration system and secure our nation’s borders — causes I have long supported.

The President’s unilateral action announced today fails to address the root causes of the dysfunction in our immigration system, including an insecure border, the absence of a rational, efficient guest worker program to meet America’s urgent labor needs, and a broken system for legal immigration, which fails those around the world who seek the American dream by actually following our laws. Unilateral executive action also fails to provide a responsible approach to providing permanent relief to those living and working without legal status inside the United States, and harms the chances for Congress to reach a compromise resolving their legal position. Finally, unilateral executive action will only incentivize increased illegal immigration, opening the floodgates to more visa overstays and illegal entries across our southern border.

As President Obama has previously said, he is not ‘a king’ or ‘the emperor of the United States,’ and he isn’t legally able to unilaterally change immigration law any way he sees fit. Congress has a responsibility to respond and push back on his illegal power-grab. Congress must be creative in using all the tools in our toolbox — including mounting a legal challenge — to oppose the President’s action.

At the same time, I believe that we Republicans must remain committed to advancing the broad, common-sense conservative agenda we share, and prove to the American people we can legislate solutions and govern effectively. Our nation has big challenges at home and abroad, and Republicans must rise to the occasion to address them.

Immigration is an issue that must be debated and decided by the representatives of the people, not by executive fiat. I had hoped that President Obama would wait for the new Congress to engage on this issue next year before contemplating any action, but it is now clear that he is more interested in using it to the Democrats’ political advantage in 2016 than he is in working in a bipartisan manner to address this pressing national challenge once and for all.

Sen. Jeff Flake:


As someone who supports broad reform to our immigration system, I'm very disappointed with the action the president is taking. It certainly doesn't seem like the right way to work with a new Congress.

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick:

Nobody is more tired of waiting for Congress to act on immigration than the people of Arizona. The president’s action tonight could bring millions of workers out of the shadows and keep families together, but it does not fix our broken immigration system. That is Congress’ job, and Congress needs to get its act together. The Senate passed bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform more than a year ago with support from Arizona’s senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake. But rather than allow a vote on reform, House leadership continues to stonewall. Now, more than ever, Congress must act. I ask my colleagues who are protesting loudly tonight to instead raise their voices and demand a vote on the Senate’s bipartisan reform bill, which strengthens border security, keeps families together and addresses our labor and economic needs.

Congressman Ron Barber:

Our immigration system is broken and it's Congress's job to fix it.

I've said from day one that Congress needs to act, and the President should not go it alone. I am disappointed that Congress has brought us to this point and I call on leaders in the House to end the gridlock and bring the bipartisan McCain Flake Immigration bill to the floor. Arizona deserves a real solution that promotes our economy and ensures the safety of our citizens.

Congresswoman-Elect Martha McSally, pending recount:

Instead of making speeches about how he's going to go it alone on immigration and ignore our system of checks and balances, the President should be inviting leaders from both parties together to find areas we agree on. If anything's clear from the last election, it's that people are fed up with the divisions in Washington and want our leaders to work together.

If the President is looking to act on immigration, he should use the authority he already has to fix our failed border strategy, but he refuses. When I get to Congress, I'll work for lasting immigration reform that addresses the root problems of our broken system by securing our border and modernizing our legal immigration system so it contributes to economic growth.


Pima County Democratic Party Latino Caucus Chair Emily Verdugo:

This is a significant victory for the Latino community here in Arizona. Our immigrant families are suffering traumatic deportations and family separations. Children are put into the foster care system, not knowing if they would ever see their parents again,” said Emily Verdugo, Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party's Latino Caucus, “Now, families will no longer be torn apart by an archaic and broken system. This is long-overdue proof that justice, fairness and good policy should never have been delayed.

Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Don Jorgensen:


While we will celebrate the President’s strong leadership, there is still more work to be done.” Said Pima County Democratic Party Chair Don Jorgensen. “So long as John Boehner and the Republican Party refuse to take any action or work with Democrats and moderate Republicans, any legislative reforms on immigration appear unlikely. With only two years remaining in the President’s second term, we are pleased that he will no longer allow the Republicans to delay doing what is right for the country.

The Republican Attorney General's Association:

Along with many of our fellow Americans, Republican Attorneys General listened carefully to President Obama’s remarks about his intended, unilateral actions regarding immigration. We agree with the President, “people who live in this country should play by the rules.” The American people also believe the President should play by the rules and respect the rule of law. The President cannot ignore the American people, the states or an entire branch of government.

Our country’s unique strength derives from its history of immigration. The values of immigrants are the values of our Republican Party, those of freedom, optimism, self-reliance, family and respect for the rule of law. We want our immigration laws to be enforced and our borders to be secure. We also want our country to be welcoming to those who want to join us on this American journey in the manner established by our laws.

As our states’ lead attorneys, however, we are committed to the rule of law and ensuring that we remain a nation of laws, enacted as prescribed by our Constitution. Each president takes an oath to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and … to the best of [his] Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” We expect President Obama to fulfill this oath. As attorneys general we will uphold our constitutional oath to take whatever actions may be appropriate to uphold the rule of law.

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