President Barack Obama has announced the most sweeping immigration reform in a generation, bypassing a Republican-controlled Congress by using executive authority.
The move eases the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants.
“Today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it,” Obama said in a White House speech.
“It’s been this way for decades. And for decades we haven’t done much about it.”
Republicans responded quickly, accusing Obama of overstepping his constitutional power a year after declaring he did not have the authority to act on his own, Reuters reported Friday.
Obama’s plan allows 4.4 million immigrants who are parents of US citizens and legal permanent residents to remain in the country temporarily, without the threat of deportation.
The US has more than 11 million illegal immigrants.
Those undocumented residents could apply legally for jobs and join American society but not vote or qualify for healthcare insurance.
An additional 270,000 people would be eligible for relief under the expansion of a 2012 move by Obama to stop deporting people brought illegally to the US as children by their parents.
Obama said the real amnesty would be “leaving this broken system the way it is”.
Trying to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally is not realistic, he added.
“What I’m describing is accountability, a common-sense, middle-ground approach,” he said. “If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported.”
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