Thousands of immigrant-rights activists, families and elected officials cheered across the country as President Barack Obama announced on television his plan for relief from deportations for about 5 million people.
But after the initial burst of emotion Thursday evening at hastily organized watch parties and in living rooms, many said Obama’s plan was just the first step in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Immigrant families pointed out the plan would only cover about 5 million of the 11 million without legal status, leaving many families and individuals in limbo.
Republicans slammed the president’s action as an overreach, while advocates – including Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and California Gov. Jerry Brown – praised Obama’s plan.
Reaction to the president’s plan:
“President Obama’s plan to fix our immigration system is not the comprehensive, long-term fix that agriculture is seeking. Agriculture needs a permanent solution from Congress that provides a consistent and reliable workforce. Wisconsin farmers need a new, flexible visa program that allows long-term access for foreign-born guest workers to enter the U.S.”
– Casey Langan, spokesman, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
“I support President Obama’s plan to reform U.S. immigration policy. Bu using his lawful authority, he is granting relief to millions of hard working individuals — mothers and fathers who are going to work every day, earning a living, paying taxes and raising their families. That is what we would call the American Dream.”
– Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.
“The country can no longer afford to wait for a do-nothing Congress to take meaningful action on this important issue and I once again commend the president for his work on behalf of immigrant families.”
– Wisconsin state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee.
“The president’s decision to issue this executive order is a stunning act of partisanship and polarization. Clearly, he is more interested in playing politics than helping hard-working taxpayers. With this legally suspect and unilateral act, he has poisoned the well on what should be a bipartisan effort and brought relations with Congress to a new low.”
– U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.
“I am proud the president has followed through on his promise to address our nation’s broken immigration system. However, I would have preferred Congress debate and pass the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.”
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin.
“The ACLU supports the President for taking necessary action to restore some fairness to our broken immigration system, and to place limits on the devastating deportation machine that has torn apart countless families for too long. Now, millions of people, who have lived under the daily threat of deportation for years, can finally breathe a sigh of relief.”
– Anthony D. Romero, executive director, ACLU
“Parents who have lived here for years and had to constantly worry that they could be torn away from their children will no longer have to look over their shoulders.”
– Neera Tanden, president, Center for American Progress
“While Republicans continue to suggest government shutdowns and impeachment hearings, I would like to remind them that the president is acting well within his legal executive authority, the same authority employed by every President since Eisenhower, including five Republican presidents. Despite partisan attempts to instill panic and anger into this critical debate, I have faith that the American public will see past these fear tactics and appreciate the commonsense approach outlined by the president.
— U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin.
“Millions of undocumented immigrants who have been waiting in perpetual fear for far too long will finally have relief thanks to the strong leadership of President Obama. Administrative relief from deportation for thousands of LGBT people who want nothing more than pursuing happiness and living openly, honestly and without fear of deportation is an important interim step. It’s now up to Congress to do its job and pass comprehensive, lasting immigration reforms.”
— Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin.
“Progress can’t wait until the tea-party fringe driving the Republican Party comes to their senses. Americans are hungry for President Obama to use his executive power to improve their lives and every time he does that, as he has tonight, progressives will fight along side him every step of the way.”
– Charles Chamberlain, executive director, Democracy for America.
“I think the president will come to regret the chapter history writes if he does move forward. Because the plan he’s presenting is more than just, as the president himself has acknowledged, an overreach – it’s also unfair.”
– Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“The president’s decision is not a political victory. It’s a victory for families. We know well that this decision is not a permanent solution. It is a first step. If we had it our way, President Obama would be signing a comprehensive immigration bill into law instead of an executive action, but can’t sit idly by waiting for Republicans to act while homes are being broken up all across this nation.”
– Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
“Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system, the president says he’s acting on his own. That’s just not how our democracy works. The president has said before that `he’s not king’ and he’s `not an emperor,’ but he’s sure acting like one.”
– House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“I was hopeful that the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in 2013 would spur the House of Representatives to act, but they refused even to advance an alternative. Their abdication of responsibility paved the way for this executive action, which follows established precedent from presidents of both parties going back many decades.”
– Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“It’s both perplexing and alarming that President Obama has decided to move forward with executive actions that he once said he didn’t have the constitutional power to take. The president’s decision to recklessly forge ahead with a plan to unilaterally change our immigration laws ignores the will of the American people and flouts the Constitution.”
– House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
“My concern is this action will make it more difficult to achieve immigration reform in the Congress. I have grave constitutional concerns about separation of powers that even though the president might be doing something that I think is good policy, it establishes a precedent that essentially moves power from the legislature to the presidency that I think is not in the long-term best interest of the country.”
– Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent.
“The administration is operating within its authority to advance the moral and economic interests of our country, and while we stand ready to defend this program, we must also be clear that it is only a first step. Unfortunately, more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation and other forms of exploitation. In addition, we are concerned by the president’s concession to corporate demands for even greater access to temporary visas that will allow the continued suppression of wages in the tech sector.”
– Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president.
“This is the biggest victory for immigrants and their allies in the past 25 years. We rejoice with the millions who can come forward, get a work permit and live without fear. Giving some 5 million immigrants a chance to work legally and live in dignity, combined with the end of the misnamed Secure Communities program, is a significant step towards bringing our dysfunctional immigration system into balance after years of ramped up deportations, out-of-control enforcement and millions of families being ripped apart.”
– Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy organization.
“Americans are tired of Congress failing to act while families are ripped apart. It’s time to move on. We respect the President’s legal authority to act on behalf of our community, and we hope these commonsense actions prod Congress to pass comprehensive immigration once and for all. Only Congress can finish the job.”
– Cristóbal Alex, president of Latino Victory Project.
“Today’s victory is tremendous, but to be real, it is incomplete. Millions of Dreamers have siblings who have U.S. citizenship or green cards so their parents will qualify for this new program – and hundreds of thousands more Dreamers will now be eligible for protection. But too many of our parents, LGBTQ brothers and sisters and friends were left out. United We Dream doesn’t agree with that decision and we are determined to fight for their protection. Our community sticks together.”
– United We Dream Managing Director Cristina Jimenez.
“Although we still need action from Congress, executive action will help millions of people. It will also boost the economy, keep us secure and keep families together.”
– Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.
“President Obama’s unconstitutional plan to reward millions of law-breaking foreign citizens with work permits is especially outrageous at a time of labor surplus and sustained wage depression for American workers and legal immigrants already here.”
– Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, an immigration control group.