Saturday, February 24, 2024

President “Ready to Move Forward” on Immigration Reform

In a major national speech, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform but cautioned that it would only happen with support of Republican lawmakers.

Acknowledging that our national immigration system is broken, the president outlined a number of components that need to be addressed in an overhaul bill.  To illustrate the problems with the current system, Obama said that illegal immigration was not limited to the southern border but also came as a result of poor tracking of people who arrive legally and simply overstay their visas.

He responded to the urgings of some immigration advocates, by rejecting requests to halt deportations until immigration reform could be tackled.  Calling such actions, “unwise and unfair,” he also said that in no way could the US round up and deport 11 million estimated undocumented immigrants who currently reside here.

“Once we move past the poles of the debate, we can come to a practical common sense approach that reflects our heritage and our values,” the president said.

Obama outlined the steps he has already taken to shore up security on the southern border, saying, “We now have more boots on the ground than in any other time in history.  We are intercepting more cash, drugs and guns.”

Despite rhetoric from the right, law enforcement, backed by statistics, point to the fact that crime on the border is down as is the number of people trying to cross illegally into the US.

Speaking of the need to ensure that needs of employers are met legally, Obama talked about the role that immigrant agricultural workers play in this sector of the economy, and on the other end of the spectrum, the need to provide opportunities for those who have been educated and trained in the US to remain and contribute to our nation’s economy.

And for undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, the president reminded the audience of his long standing support for the Dream Act.  “I supported it as a state senator, as a US Senator, and I support it as President.”

In referring to the state of Arizona’s controversial new anti-immigrant laws, Obama characterized such actions as “inflaming” the debate and “demonizing” people which does nothing to address the real issue.

However, Obama reinforced that no action can happen on immigration reform without the support of Republicans in the Senate.  Asking if, “we have the courage and political will,” the president gave a nod to the efforts of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chuck Schumer for developing a bipartisan framework for immigration reform bill and even recognized his predecessor George W. Bush for his efforts.  Graham has since walked away from discussions on a bipartisan approach.

Ending with the national motto, “e plurubus unum – out of one many”, the president proclaimed, “I’m ready to move forward.  The majority of Democrats are ready to move forward, and the majority of Americans ready to move forward.

President Obama delivered his speech to an audience at American University in Washington, DC that was expected to include Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) who leads the immigration issue for the Caucus, Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza and Phoenix Chief of Police Jack Harris.