Rep. Gutierrez: Obama Can Use Executive Actions To Give Millions Of Immigrants Work Permits

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Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., speaks about immigration during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on July 10, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., speaks about immigration during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on July 10, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Rep. Luis Gutierrez believes President Barack Obama can take executive actions on giving millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States work permits.

Speaking to Fox News on Wednesday, Gutierrez stated that the president doesn’t have the authority to grant citizenship but can grant work permits for a couple of years for those who pass a background check.

“Now he cannot, like a magic wand, grant it to five million people. He can say things like … ‘Well, if you’ve got American citizen children, and you’ve been here ten years and you can go through a background check and you’re ready to pay to go through that and you’re ready to register with the government, I’ll give you a work permit for two years,’” Gutierrez explained to Fox News. “Until the Congress finally decides to deal and then you’ll pay your taxes, you’ll work legally in the United States for a couple years, and he can grant that for a couple of years for millions of people.”

Obama has previously said that he will take action on immigration reform by the end of the summer, as critics believe the president taking executive actions will hurt Democrats in this year’s midterm elections. Reacting to criticisms, Gutierrez said it’s time to “stop playing politics” with reform.

“I think we need to put the interests of our economy first, our high-tech industry that needs changes the president can make, our agriculture industry that provide us the food that we eat every day and millions of people that do pretty good work and are pretty good people who have an immigration problem that want to register with the government. It will make us safer,” Gutierrez told Fox News.

The Illinois Democrat believes Obama will take executive actions relatively soon on immigration.

“Here’s my hope, it will happen before the election. Sometime in the next 45 days before the election, because I think there should be no political consideration or consequences considered,” Gutierrez told Fox News. “We should do it because it is the right thing for America to do.”

Gutierrez also added that Democrats missed their chance on fixing immigration themselves.

“We should’ve done it when we were in the majority,” Gutierrez said. “Democrats were too afraid that we were going to lose too many seats in 2006, and in 2008 we’d lose too many seats if we did immigration reform. So we didn’t fulfill our commitment. We weren’t true to who we were in our values.”

Obama’s goal had been to announce his decision around Labor Day, before leaving on a trip next week to Estonia and Wales. But a host of national security crises have pushed the announcement back, likely until after Obama returns, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

After resisting calls to act alone in hopes Congress would pass a comprehensive immigration fix, Obama in June bowed to immigration activists and said that “if Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours.” The most sweeping, controversial step under consideration involves halting deportation for millions, a major expansion of a 2012 Obama program that deferred prosecutions for those brought here illegally as children.

Roughly half a million have benefited from that program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Republicans are already hinting they’ll consider legal action to thwart what they’ve denounced as a violation of the separation of powers. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a conference call this month with GOP House members, accused Obama of “threatening to rewrite our immigration laws unilaterally.”

“If the president fails to faithfully execute the laws of our country, we will hold him accountable,” Boehner said, according to an individual who participated in the call.

The House already has passed legislation to block Obama from expanding DACA and, through its power of the purse, could attempt to cut off the funds that would be needed to implement the expansion. House Republicans could also consider widening or amending their existing lawsuit against Obama over his health care law, a case both parties have suggested could be a prelude to impeachment proceedings.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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