US President Barack Obama [official website] on Thursday announced execution action [remarks] on immigration that would allow 4.7 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the US. The reform allows immigrants that have been in the US for more than five years or have children who are citizens to register and pass a criminal background check in order to stay in the country. The reform also requires that immigrants to pay their fair share in taxes. The immigrants will also not be allowed to vote nor will they qualify for certain federal benefits, such as health care coverage. Obama also stated that he would add additional resources at the border in order to stem the crossing of immigrants and return those that have crossed. The president also stated the reform would make it easier for highly skilled graduates and entrepreneurs to stay in the US and contribute. Speaker of the House John Boehner immediately responded against the reform, criticizing the president’s unilateral action.
US Immigration law [JURSIT backgrounder] has changed drastically over the past few years. In August 2013 the Obama administration released [JURIST report] a policy directive known as the “Family Interest Directive” emphasizing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should apply “prosecutorial discretion” towards undocumented immigrant parents of minors to limit detaining parents and to safeguard their parental rights. In June 2013 a federal appeals court affirmed [JURIST report] a city law denying housing to undocumented immigrants. Also in June 2013 the US Senate approved [JURST report] a bill which would create new pathways to US citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the US. That bill was not approved by the House.