DENVER (CBS4)– Colorado Democrat Rep. Jared Polis is applauding President Obama’s action on immigration reform calling it “great news for our country.”

Polis spoke with CBS4’s Alan Gionet about Mr. Obama’s Thursday announcement and he said it gives law enforcement time to focus on real criminals.

“What great news for our country, I just wish that Bush or Obama had done this earlier. What this allows is our law enforcement forces to focus on criminals rather than families in this immigration problem,” said Polis.

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Polis said the president’s action does not take the place of what Congress can do.

“Certainly doesn’t solve the whole thing, only Congress can do that in terms of securing the border and enforcing our workplace laws but the President has taken a very important first step in helping to restore the rule of law, benefit our economy and make America safer,” said Polis.

“What he’s doing is called the use of prosecutorial discretion,” said Polis. “There are 10, 11 million people here illegally, we don’t even know. What the president is saying is focus on those who have committed criminal acts. So if there are people involved in drug cartels or robbing stores, that should be the laser light focus of our law enforcement.”

Polis also talked about the burden on taxpayers.

“Each deportation costs about $12,000 for taxpayers and often times there is a detention before that. Detentions cost about $120 a night and sometimes people are detained for weeks and months at taxpayer expense. So it just doesn’t make sense for anybody, doesn’t make sense for the family involved if you’re tearing away the mother from her American child and frankly those cells in the detention centers, those should be filled with criminals, not children. We should be going after felons, not families.”

Polis said that Congress is holding back legislation that will lead to real immigration form.

“Keep in mind, when Reagan was president, he was able to solve this with Congress, which is the preferred route to do it. He was able to pass and sign immigration reform. He didn’t need to do a large scale action with his executive powers,” said Polis.

“Keep in mind that this is temporary. It’s up to this president, it’s up to future presidents. It doesn’t do anything about stopping the flow of people coming here illegally. It doesn’t do anything about workplace enforcement. It doesn’t even provide any kind of permanent status or pathway to citizenship to the people involved. It’s simply a provisional work permit for a couple of years that removes that imminent fear of deportation as long as they are not violating our criminal laws. The issue ends up right back in the lap of Congress where Republicans continue to refuse to allow us a vote on securing the border and enforcing the laws on the interior.”

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