President Obama wielded his authority over Congress today with a plan for immigration reform that has the potential to ease the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented people–and students–living in the country.
Members of congress voiced concern over the president’s executive actions prior to the speech, including House Speaker John Boehner who released a short video condemning Obama’s actions. The president confronted opposers during the address and said he needed to take charge due to Republican leaders in the house refusing to vote on an immigration bill.
“Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law,” Obama said. “But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.”
Republican opposition did not stop the president from asserting executive power, who outlined a plan for people already in the U.S. to live and work legally, but also increasing pressure on the border to stifle illegal crossing. Undocumented people will be required to pass a background check and pay taxes before registering for temporary residence in the country.
The president addressed undocumented students directly and expressed admiration of their fearlessness despite the struggles they experience.
“I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha,” Obama said. “students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love.”
According to Ana Morales, president of the I.D.E.A.S club for undocumented students, the address was a step in the right direction, but not inclusive enough. Certain aspects of the plan will benefit undocumented people, but many students’ parents will not qualify for legal residence in the US.
“I’m happy but I’m also sad for the many families that are left out, I have mixed feelings about it,” Morales said. “I think this is just another step towards something bigger because i think ultimately what we want is an immigration reform that includes all people and not just a particular group.”