President Barack Obama's executive action aimed at sparing nearly 5 million people in the U.S. from being deported, which one group estimated could affect at least 14,000 immigrants living illegally in Arkansas, drew criticism from state politicians but praise from human rights activists. The president's executive order has been decried by Republicans as a presidential overstep.
Some important things to know about it:
The immigrant-advocacy group Arkansas United Community Coalition estimated Friday that at least 14,000 immigrants living illegally in Arkansas could benefit from Obama's action. The main beneficiaries are immigrants who have been in the U.S. illegally for more than five years but whose children are citizens or lawful permanent residents.
After background checks and fees, those individuals will be able to obtain work permits. Obama is also expanding a 2012 directive that deferred deportation for some young immigrants.
WHO LIKES IT
Obama's move is an important "first step," but still leaves around 6 million immigrants seeking a path to citizenship, said Mireya Reith, executive director of the Arkansas United Community Coalition.
"It's a temporary reprieve from deportation, which is huge, especially with so many families that live in the shadows (and) because of one speeding ticket, they might be deported," Reith said.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, speaking Friday on behalf of the Diocese of Little Rock, said the president's executive actions represented "a small, positive, but only temporary step."
"Ultimately, Congress and the administration need to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform," he said.
Given that Republicans will take back control of the U.S. Senate in January — and remarks by some Arkansas politicians after Obama's speech — the political realities of fixing immigration will be no easy task.
"The president is called 'Mr. President,' not 'Your Highness,'" said GOP Arkansas U.S. Sen. John Boozman. "He simply doesn't have the authority to do this. Congress needs to take all the tools we have in the toolbox to really push back."
WHAT THEY MAY AGREE ON
Reith took an optimistic approach, saying both parties can see eye to eye on one thing: immigration policy needs fixing. "We stand ready to work out a permanent solution," she said.
Arkansas officials have yet to estimate what additional resources agencies will need to provide services to the 14,000 or more Arkansas immigrants spared deportation under Obama's executive action. Brandon Sharp, budget administrator at the state's Department of Finance and Administration, said Friday there's been no discussion of cost yet.
Sharp said that like most states, Arkansas subscribes to an organization that conducts research regarding state level impacts of federal policy. "We do not have any specific details of the president's executive order, or any state-level analysis yet" from that group, Sharp said in a statement.