Washington: US President Barack Obama today used his executive power to announce a series of administrative measures to provide legal status to more than five million illegal immigrants in the country, including those from India.
The executive actions, said to be one of the largest measure by a US President on immigration, are expected to help a significant number of Indians in the technology field, especially those having H-1B visas.
The executive actions is expected to benefit five million of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers.
In a televised address to the nation yesterday evening, Obama said he is taking these actions after Republicans in the Congress posed hurdles in the way of a comprehensive immigration reform. He announced three major actions.
"First, we'll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over," Obama said.
"Second, I'll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed. Third, we'll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country," he said.
Obama said even as the US is a nation of immigrants, it is also a nation of laws and undocumented workers broke the country's immigration laws and must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous.
"That's why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 per cent. And that's why we're going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who's working hard to provide for her kids. We'll prioritise, just like law enforcement does every day," he said.
"But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally. And let's be honest ? tracking down, rounding up and deporting millions of people isn't realistic," Obama said.
"Anyone who suggests otherwise isn't being straight with you. It's also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time," he said.
Obama said immigrants work hard, often in tough, low- paying jobs to support their families.
"They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here and their hopes, dreams and patriotism are just like ours. As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it, 'They are a part of American life,' he said.
Obama said the deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently.
"It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens only Congress can do that. All we're saying is we're not going to deport you," he said.