One day after announcing sweeping executive actions to reform the U.S. immigration system, President Barack Obama vowed it was only the first step, again calling on Congress to pass formal legislation.
Speaking at a high school in Las Vegas, Obama engaged with a heckler in the audience who seemed to think his actions to temporarily halt deportations for about 5 million illegal immigrants didn't go far enough.
“That’s right, not everyone will qualify under this provision, that’s the truth, that’s the truth,” Obama said. “That’s why we are still going to have to pass a bill. I heard you and this is what I’m saying, this is the first step. It’s not the only step.”
President Barack Obama speaks about immigration, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. The president unveiled expansive executive actions on immigration Thursday night to spare nearly 5 million people in the U.S. illegally from deportation, setting off a fierce fight with Republicans over the limits of presidential powers. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Obama was speaking at Del Sol High School, where he delivered an address two years earlier calling for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Under the president's newly signed executive actions, those who qualify will have to register for background checks, pay back taxes in exchange for not having to worry about being deported for three years.
But Obama stressed Friday that the Republican-controlled House should still act on an immigration reform bill that passed the Democrat-controlled Senate in 2013.
He said the House still has four weeks of work left in the year to address the legislation.
“Right after Thanksgiving, call the bill. It’s still sitting there,” Obama said.
At one point, he repeated, “pass a bill” four times, prompting the crowd to chant, “pass a bill, pass a bill.”
Under Obama's new actions, deportations will be focused on dangerous criminals and recent illegal border crossings. Illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for more than five years and have children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents will be allowed to come forward and register for the background checks. Further, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will be expanded to those who illegally arrived in the United States as children before January 2010.
An analysis released Friday by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers estimated the action would add at least $90 billion to the gross domestic product by 2024 increase the productivity and wages and reduce the deficit by $25 billion over the next decade.
Obama said the executive action applies to illegal immigrants already here, and can’t be taken advantage of by future illegal border crossers because “borders mean something.”
Obama again said that mass deportations go against the country’s values.
“Even the Republicans that refuse to pass this bill, they are not serious about deporting 10 to 11 million people, that’s all rhetoric,” Obama said.