Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) admitted on Thursday that President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration will essentially amount to permanent relief for millions of illegal immigrants, given how difficult it would be even for a Republican president to reverse Obama's action.
In a briefing with reporters, Reid was asked how comfortable illegal immigrants should feel under Obama's plan, given that it will technically be temporary in nature because it's being done by executive order. But Reid indicated the decision will have the effect of being permanent because it will likely be impossible to reverse it once it takes effect, in light of how popular it will be for millions of immigrants and their families.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) acknowledged on Thursday that whatever relief President Barack Obama grants to illegal immigrants will most likely be permanent. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
"Immigrant groups from all over America, the Catholic Bishops, the Mormon Church… this is something that is fair and the right thing to do," Reid said when asked about the temporary nature of Obama's pending action.
"If they the opportunity at some later time, some president, to say, 'I want this all changed,' I wish that person luck, to try to tell these millions of people and their families," Reid added. "I think it'd be pretty hard to rescind what this first step is."
Obama will announce his actions Thursday night. He's expected to say that about 3.5 million illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens would gain legal status under his order, along with hundreds of thousands more through an expansion of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.
Obama's move has outraged Republicans who say Obama is going around Congress and is essentially re-writing law in a way that Congress does not support.
Democrats have defended the move by noting that other Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, have used executive orders to expand protections for millions of illegal immigrants without going through Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Obama has told Democrats that he making sure to only expand protections in ways he's legally allowed, and is not taking authority from Congress.
"There are certain things that have to be done by law, and the president has been meticulous in acting where he has legal authority to do so," she said.
But Republicans have said the situation under Obama is far different today than it was under Reagan and Bush. Several GOP members have noted that Obama's expansion will include work permits for illegal immigrants at a time when millions of Americans have stopped looking for work completely due to the lack of jobs.
GOP members have said prior immigration moves came at times when there was far less dispute over the issue. Obama's move would come just months after tens of thousands of unaccompanied children tried to cross the border, a flood that Republicans say was driven by the administration's clear preference for easing immigration rules further.
Obama's action would also take place in the context of a nonexistent White House-Congress relationship. For the last four years, very little has gotten done beyond the must-do work of passing government spending bills, and even those have been approved after long fights, plus a government shut-down last year.