U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce his plans for sweeping immigration reform by the end of the year, according to reports from White House officials.
This reform proposition, Obama says, has been in talks for 10 years and the president is now ready to take action without help from the Republican majority.
"They have the ability to fix the system. What they don't have the ability to do is expect me to stand by with a broken system in perpetuity," Obama said during a trip to Myanmar this week. "This is something that needs to be done. It's way overdue. We've been talking about it for 10 years now and it's been consistently stalled."
The president is threatening to move forward and take executive action that may result in the protection of millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally. He's expected to formally announce his plans next week that will allow illegal immigrants with children to have clearer access to work permits and be protected from deportation.
If an immigrant enters the country illegally and has a child in the U.S., that child is automatically a U.S. citizen. But previously, the parents were still at risk of being sent back to their home country, leaving the children to other family members in either country. This, protesters believe, is the big problem with the way illegal immigration was dealt with in the past. Obama's new reform bill will focus on keeping those families with legal citizen children together, even if it means allowing those who broke the country's law to be granted criminal immunity.
According to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, this could affect as many as 3.3 million people who have been living in the country illegally for at least five years. Some members of the government are looking to extend that benefit to those who have lived in the country illegally for at least 10 years, which would increase the number to around 2.5 million people.
If the policy further protects those undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, that could add another one million or so people to the protective status. The White House is also looking to possibly extend the protection to those workers in the agricultural sector who have been working steadily for several years, to prevent a collapse of the agricultural job infrastructure.
Obama also aims to extend opportunities to those immigrants with high-tech skill sets who are in the country legally, allowing an incentive for those undocumented immigrants to seek citizenship and become tax-paying members of the country.
The president is expected to announce his plans once he returns from his eight-day trip to Asia, but it could be pushed off until December. The White House promises that the issue will not be pushed off until next year, though.
The problem that most Republicans have with this reform bill is Obama's intentions to proceed through executive order. Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that if Obama were to push this through on his own, without approval, the House Republicans would "fight the president tooth and nail." This would prompt the speaker to sue the president and lead to another counterproductive government shutdown, although he admits that's not his intention.
"If the president wants to change the legal structure, he should go through Congress rather than acting on his own," Senator Mike Lee of Utah said Thursday. "I think it's very important for us to do what we can to prevent it."
Maine's Senator Angus King agrees, "I think it will create a backlash in the country that could actually set the cause back and inflame our politics in a way that I don't think will be conducive to solving the problem."
Democrats are hoping to get this bill passed in time to appease the growing pro-immigration crowd as well as Hispanic voters who will be crucial to the Democrats having a chance in the 2016 presidential election. Earlier this month, the country showed overwhelming support for Republicans in the midterm elections, proving that citizens are not as happy with the Obama administration as they once were.
The president still stands by his plans, but says that he will gladly back down if the Republicans can write up a bill that he agrees to sign.