Obama Announces Unilateral Action on Immigration

The president will focus on executive action.

ByABC News
June 30, 2014, 4:41 PM

— -- President Obama announced today that he will bypass a stalled Congress and use his executive power to start fixing the nation's immigration system.

"The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it's bad for our economy and it's bad for our future," he announced today in the Rose Garden. "America cannot wait forever for them to act, and that's why today, I'm beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress."

Obama's first moves will include mobilizing the department of homeland security and ordering the attorney general  to move resources from the interior to the border in an effort to "refocus our efforts where we can to make sure we do what it takes to keep our border secure."

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He also asked DHS secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney general Eric Holder to give him a list of recommended actions he can take unilaterally before the end of the summer.

"I've told Speaker Boehner that even as I take those steps that I can within my existing legal authorities to make the immigration system work better, I'm going to continue to reach out to House Republicans in the hope that they deliver a more permanent solution with a comprehensive bill," he said. "Maybe it will be after the midterms, when they're less worried about politics. Maybe it will be next year. Whenever it is, they will find me a willing partner."

Acknowledging anger in Congress over the use of his executive action, the President said "I don't prefer taking administrative action. I'd rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face."

"Certainly that's true on immigration. I've made that clear multiple times. I would love nothing more than bipartisan legislation to pass the House, the Senate, land on my desk, so I can sign it," he said. "I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing."

It has been a year since the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with bipartisan support; Obama saying he "held off on pressuring them (Republicans)" to see if they could bring the legislation up for a vote, but that has not happened.

"There are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House to pass an immigration bill today, I would sign it into law today, and Washington would solve a problem in a bipartisan way," he said. "But for more than a year, Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to allow an up-or-down vote on that Senate bill or any legislation to fix our broken immigration system."

"Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill," he said. "Instead they've proven again and again that they're unwilling to stand up to the Tea Party in order to do what's best for the country. And the worst part about it is, a bunch of them know better."

The Senate bill which passed with bipartisan support would mandate a beefing up of border security by an extra $30 billion before any of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants can apply for citizenship, as well as a pathway to citizenship that includes paying back taxes, passing a background check, and learning English before going to the back of the line.