Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) this week said President Barack Obama's pending plan to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants will someday be seen as an historical action along the lines of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Johnson, one of several Democrats pushing for Obama to move on his own and allow millions of immigrants to live and work legally in the United States, also said movies would someday be made about Obama's action.
"One day there will be movies written about this episode in American history," he said, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "There will be a president who issues an executive order like the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed three to four million slaves with the signing of a pen."
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on the first day of 1863, proclaiming the freedom of millions of slaves right in the middle of the Civil War. Johnson said failing to give illegal immigrants the right to live legally in the U.S. and work is essentially allowing companies to benefit from cheap, slave labor.
"They're protecting an economic order that makes its living off of cheap labor, just like slavery," he said. "You entice people from across the border to come here and you pay them sub-wages and you keep them in an underground economy and you refuse to let them out. Those people work hard. They have played by the rules. They have built this country."
Johnson said he imagines the end of the movie about Obama's immigration action, Congress will ultimately agree with Obama.
"In the end of the movie Congress will — there will be some bold action in Congress by congressional leaders to force the others to do what is right," he said.
Republicans went on high alert over the last week, as news leaked out that Obama could issue an executive order as early as next week that legalizes millions of illegal immigrants and allows them to work. That plan could also include efforts to boost border enforcement, an element of the plan that Democrats could use as a way to soften GOP opposition to the entire package.
Republicans have threatened to pass legislation blocking the use of federal funds to implement Obama's plan. Some GOP members have said impeachment of Obama should be an option if he goes around Congress and tries to write his own immigration law, but GOP leaders have shied away from impeachment or shutting down the government.
Johnson and other Democrats have said Obama has every legal right to act without Congress.
"I also want to say to President Obama: We have your back," he said. "Don't worry about it. Do the right thing. Let’s make it happen."