WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- President Barack Obama revealed his immigration executive action in a speech Thursday night, telling Americans he would be giving temporary deportation relief and the chance to apply for work authorization to up to 5 million illegal immigrants. The plan, which could affect 8.1 million undocumented workers in the labor market, was roundly lambasted by Republicans, who said it likely will lead to more illegal immigration and disrupt attempts to develop a bipartisan solution by Congress.
President Obama outlined his executive actions for immigration in three steps: first, strengthen the border and continue deporting criminals, which he says has gone up 80 percent; second, make it easier for educated immigrants to stay and contribute to American society; third and most controversially, he plans to "deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country."
Obama said his plan will allow illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens, parents' of illegal immigrants or residents with five years' continuous presence in the U.S. the chance to apply for work authorization and relief from deportation. All applicants would have to pass a criminal background check and agree to pay taxes. The president also claimed his plan would not grant citizenship or a path to it.
Apparently in an attempt to anticipate backlash from Republican members of the House and Senate, he paraphrased Exodus 22:21, which contains the reminder the people of Israel once were foreigners in Egypt.
"Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too," said Obama.
He also challenged Congress to "pass a bill" that will work towards a "more permanent legislative solution."
Republicans slammed Obama's executive action, with Sen. John McCain of Arizona calling it an "illegal power grab" and House Speaker John Boehner described it as a "my way or the highway approach" that will make it more difficult to work on legislation in Congress. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul pointed out that Obama himself promised never to abuse his powers for immigration reform.
"President Obama is not above the law and has no right to issue executive amnesty. His actions blatantly ignore the separations of powers and the principles our country was founded on. The president has said 22 times previously that he does not have the power to legislate on immigration," said Paul in a statement.
"The president's decision tonight will lead to more illegal immigration, not less," added Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "It's time for the president to secure our border, followed by meaningful reforms. There is no more time for political grandstanding."
Though the GOP seems united against Obama's executive action, they appear split about exactly how to challenge it. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham seemed to support court action, while some House members threatened to remove funding, appropriations bills originate in their chamber.
President Obama will travel to Del Sol High School in Las Vegas Friday to rally bipartisan support for his plan.