(CNSNews.com) - Speaking about his new immigration program in Nashville on Tuesday, President Obama assured "ordinary" illegal immigrants, "You're not going to be deported," even if they don't register with the U.S. government.
"So even if somebody didn't sign up, they're still much less likely to be subject to deportation. That's because we've changed our enforcement priorities, in a formal way," Obama said.
Obama explained that the Homeland Security Department has set deportation priorities: "And at the top are criminals, people who pose a threat, and at the bottom are ordinary people who are otherwise law-abiding. And what we're saying, essentially, is in that low-priority list, you won't -- you won't be a priority for deportation. You're not going to be deported. We're not going to keep on separating families."
Later, Obama said the same thing in different words: "The prioritization in terms of deportation, that applies to everybody, even if you don't do anything" (register).
Nevertheless, Obama urged people with U.S.-citizen relatives to register with the government, submit themselves to a criminal background check and pay back taxes: "[A]nd if you do that, you'll actually get a piece of paper that gives you an assurance that you can work and live here without fear of deportation."
Obama said "it's true" that a future president would be able to reverse some of his policies unless Congress acts. But he said it's unlikely:
"I'll be honest with you: I think that the American people basically have a good heart and want to treat people fairly, and every survey shows that if in fact somebody has come out, subjected themselves to a background check, registered, paid their taxes, that the American people support allowing them to stay. So I think any future administration that tried to punish people for doing the right thing I think would not have the support of the American people.
"The real question is, how do we make sure that enough people register so that it's not just a few people in a few pockets around the country? And that's going to require a lot of work by local agencies, by municipalities, by churches, by community organizations."
In the meantime, Obama said it's important to "keep pushing" Congress to pass legislation that will make his temporary amnesty permanent:
"And so we've just got to build an effective network around the country, and the Department of Homeland Security will be working with local organizations to make sure that people get the right information. But I think the main response to people that we have to assure them of is that the American people actually are fair-minded and want to reward rather than punish people who do the right thing.
"And if you register, I'm confident that that's going to be something that allows you to then get on a path to being here in this country with your children and watching them grow up and making a life for yourself, as you already have."