U.S. President Barack Obama has dismissed criticism of his executive order changing how the country deals with some undocumented immigrants, urging Republican lawmakers to pass a bill if they are not satisfied with his unilateral action.
Opponents of the president's actions joined Obama in taking to the Sunday-morning television talk shows to make their respective cases.
In an interview on ABC's "This Week," the president said it was important to prioritize the deportation of felons, criminals and recent arrivals over people who have lived here illegally more than five years.
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Asked about criticism by House Speaker John Boehner, Obama said his response is "pass a bill."
And in his weekly address Saturday, Obama repeated points he made in announcing the immigration plan Thursday. He said it will "bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules, pay their full share of taxes, pass a criminal background check and get right with the law."
On "Fox News Sunday," Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas objected to Obama's unilateral move.
"Essentially, he's gotten [into] the job of counterfeiting immigration papers, because there's no legal authority to do what he's doing," Cruz said. Later, he called the action "a stunning and sad display of a president declining to honor his constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
On CNN's "State of the Nation," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina acknowledged his party was also responsible for failing to prod immigration legislation in the House of Representatives.
"I'm disappointed in my country, my party and my president" on immigration, Graham said.
And on CBS' "Face the Nation," Obama found a strong ally in Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat.
He said Republicans opposed to the newly approved reforms "have 180 days, starting January 1, before the first person applies for a work permit under the president's executive authority. What I'd say to them: Roll up your sleeves."
The president has said he was forced to act because the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would not take up legislation that had passed the Democrat-controlled Senate more than a year ago.
It became even more unlikely that Congress would pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill after this month's midterm elections, which saw Republicans strengthen their control of the House and gain a majority in the Senate. The new Congress takes office in January.
Orders begin reforms
The two executive orders, signed Friday, will begin the process of offering temporary work permits and lift the threat of deportation for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants.
Boehner has said Obama "is damaging the presidency" by bypassing Congress to take executive action on immigration.
Obama said Saturday his order is not amnesty, "no matter how often" critics say it is. Amnesty, he said, is "the immigration system we have today: millions of people living here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules."
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto praised Obama's executive orders Friday, calling them "an act of justice."