Obama reform would benefit thousands of ‘undocumented’

Immigration measures to include allowing parents of US-born children to gain legal status

Protesters gather to demand immediate executive action on immigration reform outside the White House in Washington, US,   earlier this month. Photograph: Jabin Botsford/The New York Times

Protesters gather to demand immediate executive action on immigration reform outside the White House in Washington, US, earlier this month. Photograph: Jabin Botsford/The New York Times

 

President Barack Obama plans to unveil sweeping changes to US immigration enforcement that will protect up to five million illegal immigrants, including thousands of “undocumented” Irish, from deportation, granting working permits to many of them.

US media reported, citing Obama administration officials, that the president intends to use executive action, bypassing Republicans in Congress, to redirect the country’s 12,000 immigration agents that will benefit millions of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

Among the measures will be a relaxation of rules allowing parents of US-born children or legal residents to themselves receive legal status in the country, removing the threat of families being separated, Fox News first reported followed by other media, including the New York Times.

Executive orders

The number of Irish to benefit will depend on how long they have been living illegally in the US and whether they have American-born children.

Immigration advocates estimate that many of the undocumented have lived in the US for long periods, in some cases well over 10 years, and have children who are either US citizens or have legal residency.

Chicago-based Irish activist Billy Lawless, who has lobbied White House officials at meetings this year, said he hoped Mr Obama would include “immediate discretion” to allow those who have missed family events at home such as funerals to travel freely between the countries.

The plans put Mr Obama on a collision course with Republicans, who will assume control of Congress in January after winning back control of the Senate in last week’s midterm elections. Republican leaders have warned Mr Obama against taking executive action on immigration.

The president, who returns from a trip to Asia on Sunday, said last week that he couldn’t delay action on immigration reform any longer.

Final decision

Josh Earnest

Republicans, who object to immigration reform on the basis that amounts to “an amnesty” for illegal behaviour, have made preparations to block the president by tying prohibitions on changes to a new budget.

“I have always said to them to go big on this,” said Mr Lawless, a vice-president of the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights, of his representations to White House officials this year.

“Whether it is one, two or five million people affected, it is the same grief he is going to get from Republicans. The bigger he goes the better because it is going to be very difficult for the Republicans to ever rescind it.”