Obama rebukes critics of reform on immigration
US President Barack Obama has hit back at criticism of his new immigration reforms, aimed at preventing the deportation of some four million people, by his Republican rivals.
The president has come under sustained attack after he controversially bypassed the US congress to announce his new plans in a televised address last Thursday night.
Among his plans, Obama wants to take away the threat of deportation from families and those who have been living and working for a long time in America.
The moves could help some of the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish living across the US to become legal and might open the door for people to return home to Ireland after years of missed family occasions.
In an interview broadcast yesterday, Obama said it was important that he act unilaterally to prioritise the deportation of criminals and recent arrivals and spare those who have lived illegally in the US for at least five years and have roots, including children who are American citizens.
"Why we would prefer a system in which they're in the shadows, potentially taking advantage of living here but not contributing?" Obama asked in the interview, which was taped last Friday in Las Vegas after his speech on immigration reform.
The president pointed to executive orders issued by Democratic and Republican predecessors and said presidents exercise "prosecutorial discretion all the time".
However, Obama's Republican rivals have attacked the President for introducing the reforms under an executive order with accusations that he has behaved like an "emperor".
Republican Senator Ted Cruz rejected Obama's claim of prosecutorial discretion.
"Essentially he's gotten in the job of counterfeiting immigration papers, because there's no legal authority to do what he's doing," Cruz said yesterday.
Senator Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, said his party shared the blame for failing to get an immigration bill through the House of Representatives.
"Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that is national security, it's cultural and it's economic," he said.
Obama's order came after the House of Representatives failed to act on an immigration bill passed by the Senate in 2013.
The measures have also been criticised by some Irish in the US who say they don't go far enough.