Obama tackles immigration reform

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 President Barack Obama made an appeal to the American people and Congress today, July 1, to put politics aside, and work together to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

"We are confronting the great challenges of our time," Obama said during his remarks made at American University in Washington D.C., and televised live.

This administration will not just "kick the can down the road" when most agree the current immigration system is fundamentally broken, the president said.

Every day millions of immigrants live and work in the United States because they want a better life for their families, he said.

"Our founding was rooted in the notion that America was unique as a place of refuge and freedom for, in Thomas Jefferson's words, 'oppressed humanity,'" the president said.

But, he said, there has always been anti-immigrant rhetoric and laws.

"[T]he ink on our Constitution was barely dry when, amidst conflict, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which placed harsh restrictions of those suspected of having foreign allegiances. A century ago, immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, other European countries were routinely subjected to rank discrimination and ugly stereotypes. Chinese immigrants were held in detention and deported from Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay. They didn't even get to come in," he said.

Obama said immigrants have historically enriched American culture and helped grow small businesses and the economy as a whole. Many noncitizen immigrants continue to enlist in the U.S. military because they take pride in the values of America, said Obama.

"Immigrants have helped to build and defend this country," he said. "That is what makes us strong and unique."

But many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants continue to live in the shadows, which hurts the country, he said. From "unscrupulous businesses who pay" less than "minimum wage or violate worker safety rules - thereby putting companies who follow those rules, and Americans who rightly demand the minimum wage or overtime, at an unfair [dis]advantage," he said, to unreported crimes, lost tax revenue and undermining the legal immigration process.

Plus states take federal immigration policy into their own hands, he said, referring to Arizona. He called their new laws "ill-conceived."

Anti-immigrant state laws and local ordinances create huge pressures for law enforcement agencies and economic hardships on budgets, said Obama. They will also potentially violate the rights of U.S. citizens based on how people look and speak, he said.

Obama said immigration reform is being held hostage by special interests groups. Two years ago, nearly a dozen Republicans supported reform, however all have since backed away from the issue, he said.

Although many argue strengthening the border is the solution, Obama said there are more U.S. boots on the ground there than in the last 20 years. "However we can't solve the problem with just fences and walls."

He urged a comprehensive approach, including updating the "creaky" legal immigration system, allowing undocumented immigrants to legalize themselves through a multi-step process, passing the DREAM Act to allow undocumented youth -- brought here by their parents -- to enter college and contribute to the economy, and reducing the demand for undocumented workers by "cracking down" on abusive employers.

The right way to view immigration reform should be based on how to unite the country not divide it, he urged. And the path to reform on this issue needs a practical common sense approach from everybody, including government, businesses and individuals, he said.

"Ultimately the question is: Do we have the courage and the political will to pass a bill in Congress? To get it done?" he asked.

"Without bipartisan support we cannot solve this problem. The political and mathematical reality is that we need Republican support," said Obama.

Supporters, he said, agree immigration reform is an emotional issue that must not be used to divide, deferred or demonize people. Overhauling the current system will need continued and growing support of the faith-based, labor, business and community partners both liberal and conservative, he said.

It's not just political or economic, it's also a moral and compassionate issue, he said. Using vivid American imagery, Obama invoked the history of the Statue of Liberty and of Emma Lazarus, an American poet whose family roots reach back to colonial days and the forced migration of Jewish Europeans, fleeing persecution. Lazarus wrote "The New Colossus," the iconic poem that is engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty. Obama read the poem:

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand,

A mighty woman with a torch...
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome...
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"...
"Give me your tired, and your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to be free...
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The president, like the Statue of Liberty and Lazarus' poem, appeals to the best of America.

As the fight for immigration reform heats up, the meaning behind the Statue of Liberty is something we should all keep in mind.

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  • Jeez, the immigration issue brings out the rednecks like manure attracts flies! It's too bad the Indians didn't have strict immigration laws back in the time of Plymouth Rock. The bottom line is that the REAL illegals are the ones who came to N.America, stole the lands, slaughtered the indigenous peoples and now cry about the "criminals" crossing the border!

    Let's not even talk about the crimes committed by George W. Bush and his pals from 2001 through 2008. When it comes to criminal behavior, the rednecks of this nation have everyone beat HANDS DOWN!

    A t-shirt depicting Apache warriors worn at a recent May Day march in San Antonio summed it up quite well;
    "Home Land Security, Fighting Terrorism Since 1492"

    Posted by , 07/07/2010 11:06am (5 years ago)

  • Simple: Stop the illegal influx of people who break the law to get in. Enforce the existing laws, which allow very large numbers of immigrants annually (I know about the process and the numbers, which are pretty large - I have sponsored people for legal green cards). Then take a breath. Then decide if the country can accept millions more annually, in a controlled an legal manner. Include in the calculation whether they will be a cost burden on the additional residents, or carry their own weight.

    Posted by John Douglas, 07/07/2010 10:50am (5 years ago)

  • Sorry, Mr. President---not much chance of putting politics aside and a bipartisan approach.

    Make the most of the next few months while there is a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. I greatly fear that after November, the Senate will be a Republican majority. You think there is gridlock now?? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

    Posted by Ronald Humphrey, 07/07/2010 5:51am (5 years ago)

  • The Statue of Liberty stands as a beacon of Liberty and
    Freedom that Americans have and which we gained by fleeing our socialist and communist oppressors in Europe.

    Posted by abert aphusermieu, 07/06/2010 12:20pm (5 years ago)

  • While I support immigration reform, this new plan also calls for the expansion of the guest worker program which is far worse of a human rights violation than the illegal status. ANY growth of this program will create more situations of corporations exploiting people and holding them and their families literally hostage with insurmountable debts in their homelands. All the while displacing the American workers who locally can't find any work. It is simply another form of tribalism which pits corporations against immigrants, locals against immigrants, immigrants against locals BUT unfortunately it hasn't seemed to turn locals against the corporations and of course the corporations just place the blame on the government who they paid off for not having stricter oversights. Then they pay for TV and Radio advertizing to turn locals against the politicians who try to add more oversight provisions. While I hope* that something better will come out of this new provision I fear that Obama's capitulation will result in just another GOP hand out to corporations.

    I'll end with a quote from the anti-christ (Ronald Wilson Reagan= six letters in each of his names=666=lol)

    "I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here."


    OPEN DOORS?!?!

    TO ANYONE?!?!

    Reagan must be spinning... lol

    Posted by Jordan, 07/05/2010 3:01pm (5 years ago)

  • The policies and legislation of this unique country of the United States of America would,if worthy of the best,say of a giant in human rights,in the best traditions of human liberty-Charles Sumner say,who was beaten so viciously in the chambers of the U.S. Senate in defense of which human rights,that he eventually died of the injuries.
    These rights,Sumner would have extended to Latinos,Africans and Asians,based on his deep and searing analyses of human history,especially the Age of Enlightenment,which souls like Benjamin Franklin,Benjamin Banneker(the African American peace advocate and astronomer)and he built upon.
    From Descartes to Sumner reason and the Declaration of Independence itself was the embodiment of international human rights,along with immigrant rights,if we would follow the natural laws of human and scientific methodology,gleaned from human experience of our most knowledgeable human traditions.
    The Atlantic Revolutions,especially the American and Haitian Revolutions were heavily instigated by the Enlightenment.
    The current broken immigrant policy and absence of constructive legislation is a stubborn stain on our Republic and will continue to lead to atrocities like 1070 in Arizona,if not corrected with our completion of the very embarrassing unfinished business of bringing us up to speed to ideas more than 300 yrs old,but yet progressive.
    President Obama seems on the correct track,but there is no substitute for the full participation of those traditionally left out of our democracy,women,African Americans,Latinos,Asians,all sexual orientations,the differently abled and others,in determining immigrant policy,including the current immigrants.
    This is not an action of the exception,but a deliberate,due,and proper action that all Americans should expect and see as our completing human freedoms,which started in 1776.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 07/04/2010 8:40pm (5 years ago)

  • Once again, our President has embarrassed us once again. This time by changing the words of the poem on our Statue of Liberty. The words are "BREATHE free", not BE FREE. It never ceases to amaze the lengths he will go to push his own agenda against the will of the American People. These people coming to America we coming here LEGALLY. I don't have a problem with immigrants coming here legally, but the illegal ones need to leave and get at the end of the line behind their fellow countryman who are trying to come here legally. Whenever I hear comprehensive immigration reform I know he means amnesty. We tried that back in the 80's. I didn't work then and it won't work now.

    "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    Posted by An American, 07/04/2010 8:27pm (5 years ago)

  • Look, our (official) unemployment rate is over nine percent. HALF of American workers are either unemployed or underemployed. At the same time, there are about 15 million illegal aliens within our borders.

    Something tells me this isn't going to end with everybody singing Kumbaya, and then marching arm in arm to the boss' door to successfully demand jobs and raises all around. The thing most likely to come of this situation is some kind of extreme rightwing reaction, of which the Arizona law is only the mildest harbinger. If you're to have a hope of preventing that, you've got to deal with reality as it is, and not as you wish it were.

    I think you're helping to create a disaster.

    Posted by Trailer Trash, 07/02/2010 8:02pm (5 years ago)

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