Just two weeks after Republicans handed President Obama a huge defeat at the polls, the president last night unveiled from the White House his plan, using executive action, to change current immigration policy, saying it will allow law-abiding immigrants to “come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”  President Obama’s decision to take action comes two years after his pledge to pursue comprehensive immigration reform and after efforts to pass a comprehensive bill collapsed on Capitol Hill last summer.

Many of the details of President Obama’s action are yet to be announced, but two distinct groups will benefit from the president’s action.  However, approximately 6.2 million people out of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country will still be subject to deportation.

Undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for at least five years will be able to stay if they have  a child who is a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident.  For those immigrants that fit into this category, the president pointed out that these individuals must register, pay a fee, pass a criminal background check, and pay their fair share of taxes. They must also be able to prove that their child was born before the president made his announcement last night.  There are approximately 3.7 million people in the United States that fall into this category. Undocumented immigrants that do not have children are still subject to deportation.

The second group is comprised of those who were brought to the United States by their parents as children and now reside in the United States illegally.   President Obama already exempted about 1.2 million of what the administration called  “dreamers” in 2012.  The president will now expand this group to include any person brought to the United States in 2009 or earlier, no matter what their age.  It is estimated that 300,000 undocumented immigrants are in this category.  The president’s action does not include parents of “dreamers” who, if illegal, are still subject to deportation.

Those in both groups will have to reapply after three years and can also apply for a work permit.  It will also be easier for some people with temporary status to travel back to their countries as long as they seek permission.  It will also be easier for those who are waiting for legal permanent residence to travel abroad.

President Obama did not provide any new protection or program for migrant agricultural workers.  The agricultural sector have long sough ways to introduce a guest-worker program that would allow eligible workers to travel to and from the United States.  The H1-B visa program, which is important to the technology sector, was not significantly expanded.  The president did speak about bolstering border security and said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will issue new guidelines instructing federal immigration agents to focus on deporting people who are “national security threats, serious criminals, and recent border crossers” to ensure that the government is focusing on “deporting felons, not families.”

“Hopefully the action taken by the president will lead to resolution on other matters of immigration reform that are of importance to the chicken industry, especially a strengthened and more reliable E-verify system that allows employers to better secure a legal workforce, and adequate protections for those who use government tools in good faith,” said Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council

 “Executive actions cannot adequately fix our broken immigration system, and they raise important legal and constitutional questions,” said Tom Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  “Yet the debate over the president’s announcement must not be allowed to forestall progress on critical priorities such as expanding trade and energy production, strengthening our national defense, reforming the regulatory process, or tending to the immediate and long-term fiscal challenges facing our nation,” Donahue said.

Republicans reacted by staunchly  opposing the president’s use of executive action to circumvent legislative action.  “By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-OH) said.  “Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office.  We will not shrink from this duty, because our allegiance lies with the American people.  We will listen to them, work with our members, and protect the Constitution.”

The White House insists that the president has legal standing to take this executive action on immigration policy, saying the president’s actions “are absolutely supported by the law,” citing prior action taken by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W Bush, who signed orders protecting smaller groups of illegal immigrants from deportation.