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President Obama at a town hall meeting last month. (White House photo)

Speaking in El Paso, Texas today, President Barack Obama made the case for comprehensive immigration reform, contending that providing a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants will improve U.S. security as well as the economy. He outlined the work his administration has done to increase border security, and asserted that with security issues dealt with, it is time to find a permanent solution that will help the nation's economy.

From his prepared remarks:

Under Secretary Napolitano's leadership, we have strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible. They wanted more agents on the border. Well, we now have more boots on the ground on the southwest border than at any time in our history. The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents—more than twice as many as there were in 2004, a build up that began under President Bush and that we have continued.

They wanted a fence. Well, that fence is now basically complete.

And we've gone further. We tripled the number of intelligence analysts working the border. I've deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the skies from Texas to California. We've forged a partnership with Mexico to fight the transnational criminal organizations that have affected both of our countries. And for the first time we are screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments—to seize guns and money going south even as we go after drugs coming north.

On the economy:

Think about it. Over the past decade, even before the recession, middle class families were struggling to get by as costs went up but incomes didn't. We're seeing this again with gas prices. Well, one way to strengthen the middle class is to reform our immigration system, so that there is no longer a massive underground economy that exploits a cheap source of labor while depressing wages for everyone else. I want incomes for middle class families to rise again. I want prosperity in this country to be widely shared. That's why immigration reform is an economic imperative.

And reform will also help make America more competitive in the global economy. Today, we provide students from around the world with visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities. But our laws discourage them from using those skills to start a business or power a new industry right here in the United States. So instead of training entrepreneurs to create jobs in America, we train them to create jobs for our competition. That makes no sense. In a global marketplace, we need all the talent we can get—not just to benefit those individuals, but because their contributions will benefit all Americans.

To achieve that, the White House has released the Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System (pdf), following this outline:

  • Responsibility by the federal government to secure our borders: Today, our borders are more secure than at any time in the past several decades and the Administration continues to refine and strengthen its strategy. Enforcement resources should be focused on preventing those who would do our nation harm from entering our country.
  • Accountability for businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers: Employers who deliberately hire and exploit undocumented workers must be held accountable. At the same time, we must give employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.
  • Strengthening our economic competitiveness by creating a legal immigration system that reflects our values and diverse needs: Our immigration laws should continue to reunify families and encourage individuals we train in our world-class institutions to stay and develop new technologies and industries in the United States rather than abroad. The law should stop punishing innocent young people whose parents brought them here illegally and give those young men and women a chance to stay in this country if they serve in the military or pursue higher education. A smart 21st century system should also provide farmers a legal way to hire the workers they rely on year after year, and it should improve procedures for employers who seek to hire foreign workers for jobs if U.S. workers are not available.
  • Responsibility from people who are living in the United States illegally: Those people living here illegally must also be held accountable for their actions and get on the right side of the law by registering and undergoing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, and learning English before they can get in line to become eligible for citizenship. Being a citizen of this country comes not only with rights but also with fundamental responsibilities. We can create a pathway for legal status that is fair and reflects our values.

The White House has stressed the theme of "elevating the debate" on immigration in this push, Republicans are unlikely to rise up to that challenge. For example: "'The president can pander all he wants to, make as many speeches as he wants to,' said Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the main committee in the U.S. House of Representatives that would consider immigration legislation," suggesting that Obama's proposal is unlikely to get a hearing in his committee.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue May 10, 2011 at 01:16 PM PDT.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm sure our friends on The Right (21+ / 0-)

    are very appreciative of President Obama's efforts to greatly increase our border security.

    What's that? No? They still think Mexico's conquering the U.S and that Obama is deliberately helping MS-13 traffic child sex slaves? Oh, okay.

    "See? I'm not a racist! I have a black friend!"

    by TheHalfrican on Tue May 10, 2011 at 01:25:27 PM PDT

  •  you said it sister (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    it's about time someone high up is actually taking charge here.

  •  big business loves illegal labor and the GOP (26+ / 0-)

    you will notice the GOP never ever mentions going after employers that willfully exploit immigrant labor.  These employers are not paying their fair share of taxes and are making huge profits on the backs of these workers and the middle class.  They are gleeful to enjoy their sub class of people and pay lobbyist to make sure Congress looks the other way.

  •  I absolutely love (18+ / 0-)

    how he right into the lions den to give these important speeches! Anbody can do it in a "friendly" environment.

    "I transcend your puny categorization."

    by kjoftherock on Tue May 10, 2011 at 01:27:02 PM PDT

  •  While the GOP still dominates the House (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lyvwyr101, The Nose

    the chances of this going anywhere is nil.

  •  "...and fix that danged fence." (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zegota, lyvwyr101

    - John McCain

  •  Our broken immigration system is too convenient (7+ / 0-)

    for Democrats who want to drum up the Hispanic vote and Republicans who want to drum up the racist vote.

    Fixing it will require politicians on both sides to choose morality over politics, which is why it will never happen.

  •  Well if you listen to some (5+ / 0-)

    you will realize that 'oh my god, this was a campaign speech'.  

    Gee, I am surprised that Obama dare to actually point out the differences between him and the GOP.

    On a more serious note, the biggest problem is that businesses hire illegal immigrants.  Here in Iowa, they would basically haul up undocumented workers to work in the meat packing plants.  The reason nothing is done about this is that no one wants to pay any more for food.

    •  See point number 2 in the last block quote (5+ / 0-)
      * Accountability for businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers: Employers who deliberately hire and exploit undocumented workers must be held accountable. At the same time, we must give employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.

      I agree it's a problem, but he is at least addressing it. It remains to be seen how this translates into actual legislation and enforcement.

  •  there's no way this will pass the House (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cybrestrike, lyvwyr101

    so what's the point?

  •  Hypocrisy and double talk (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AllanTBG, Virginia mom, lyvwyr101

    "Today, we provide students from around the world with visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities."

    So, we pay an MS in engineering in the U.S. a quarter of an MBA's starting salary. Any idiot can get an MBA, witness Gorgeous Bush, and half the GOP. It takes real smarts to get a Master's in engineering.

    And computer science salaries are lower than they were ten years ago in real dollars.

    You ask why? It's thanks to the influx from India of hundreds of thousands of VISA workers, all designed to lower wages here and make American scientists and engineers accept lower pay.

    The changes Obama wants will bring in more engineers from overseas, lowering wages even more, and telling America's brightest to work for Wall Street, not Microsoft.

  •  Great - drones flying over the border (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Ferguson

    How long until the next Republican president decides to "expand" the drone program to include some bombings here and there? You never know...

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Tue May 10, 2011 at 01:39:53 PM PDT

  •  Everyone will rip him to shreds on this. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mebby, jalenth, Virginia mom, lyvwyr101

    Under a reasonable political climate this is always a lose-lose.  It's doesn't go far enough from the left and too far from the right.  Then there's the schizophrenic Republican approach:  they need to gin up the racist hatred and promise sending all the 'Mexicans' back; all the while placating their Chambers of Commerce that exploit this labor.  

    Obama will get no credit for even attacking the problem.  Gutierrez in Chicago will find enough wrong with it to still tell his constituents not to vote.  

    What a mess.  

  •  I was inspired (6+ / 0-)

    I don't get to say that very often in these cynical times, but it gives hope that maybe we can do something... sooner rather than later. The truth is, we have nearly 51 million Latinos living in America... and most of them CAN vote. This was politics, but President Obama is a smart enough man to know he can't walk away without delivering.

    by fnpople2008 on Tue May 10, 2011 at 01:46:37 PM PDT

  •  His talk was a bit more sarcastic than prepared (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lyvwyr101, JenDem, Matt Z

    in talking about what they wanted before they would do any comprehensive reform. (That is not a complaint, I like humorous sarcasm)
    He'd say 'they wanted 'X', I gave them '3X', now they will probably want quadruple X'
    'They keep raising the bar'
    He talked that way about a lot of the get tough parts of it

    But he also said at various times people from both sides have made real efforts but politics get in the way. That people keep wanting to put it odd until after the election but the problem is there is always another election coming

    All the republicans did in last session to anything was say NO and those 41 republicans in Senate had a powerful no.
    They blocked so much that could have helped and the House Dems passed so much that never got attention.
    And look where NO got them in the next election.
    Don't think they are in a hurry to start compromising with Dems or with sanity now

  •  Oh boy, here we go (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mali muso

    I'm going to have to give this a good, hard read soon. Thanks for this diary, Joan.

  •  Republicans, please continue digging yourselves (6+ / 0-)

    into your well-appointed ditches.  The more you stand against immigration reform, the DREAM Act and fighting for discrimination, the more the general public and Latinos will take note and give you some well-deserved payback come 2012.

    America is waking up, thanks to the Bin Laden jolt, to what this president is accomplishing for the country and it doesn't make the Republican agenda very attractive.  Asleep at the wheel on 9/11.  Letting Bin Laden escape in Tora Bora.  Launching an unprovoked, illegal invasion/war in Iraq.  Destroying the economy.  Shipping millions of American jobs overseas.  Voting against saving the American auto industry.  Leaving Bin Laden living in luxury in the country NEXT DOOR to Afghanistan. Refusing Federal dollars for high speed rail.  Passing bills to FIRE more Americans and bust unions.  Yup.  It's getting more and more clear every single day.  The Republican agenda is to destroy the Middle Class in this country and make their greedy "donors" wealthier, leaving grandma on the side of the road to die.

    Yup.  No wonder you people can't find a decent candidate to debate President Barack Hussein Obama.  It sure ain't gonna be a pretty sight.

    LOL.  OBAMA 2012 AND MORE DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS!!!!!  Can't come soon enough for me!

    Best. President. Ever.

    by Little Lulu on Tue May 10, 2011 at 01:56:04 PM PDT

  •  I don't support immigration reform (0+ / 0-)

    What are we going to do in 20-30 years when there are millions more of illegals running around? Are their apologists going to demand another amnesty?

    •  The system needs to be reformed SOMEHOW (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cassandracarolina, Virginia mom

      I'm not in love with the current proposals honestly b/c they don't seem to address the fact that many H1B foreign workers don't really have special unavailable skills, they are just cheaper to employ than the US workforce, thus depressing US wages and capping the earning potential of Americans.

      Having said that the current system is divided against itself a dozen different ways, we need a rational approach to this issue that addresses our economic needs as well as the legitimate desire of residents to be reunited with their families. The trick is doing this in a way that doesn't serve as an incentive for future illegal immigration or allow US companies to undercut domestic wages

      But again the status quo isn't working in any way shape or form.

      "Buying Horizon Milk to support organic farming is like purchasing an English muffin in an effort to prop up the British economy." -Windowdog

      by Windowdog on Tue May 10, 2011 at 02:20:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  what would you propose? do you have something (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in mind that is workable?  

    •  Millions more Hispanic immigrants running around (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Egalitare, AgavePup, Delilah

      won't bring the country down. We need immigration policies that allow people from all over the world to come to the country efficiently and legally.

    •  We need a long term strategy... (0+ / 0-)

      ...that supports labor rights and environmental protection for everyone in North America. In essence, replacing NAFTA with a NAMP: North American Marshall Plan.

      Then work with Brazil to expand the concept to the entire Hemisphere.

      The so-called "rising tide" is lifting only yachts.

      by Egalitare on Tue May 10, 2011 at 03:19:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Give them jobs? Let them pay taxes? (0+ / 0-)

      Educate them? Let them pay into our healthcare system? Let them continue to make our businessmen rich and several sectors in our 401(K) investment portfolios more profitable for us? Let them integrate into society and enrich our culture the way all the preceding waves of immigrants have done?

      I dunno.

    •  I think this is one of the main concerns. (0+ / 0-)

      There are, however, probably ways to address this and dismiss these concerns - although they may be unpopular. For example, something along the lines of:

      1. Fix E-Verify and make it mandatory (I believe this Administration is proposing this already).
      2. Make the failure to obtain a clear E-Verify on a new employee a serious crime (even if the employee actually is legally entitled to work) with a minimum sentence of a couple years in prison - much like SOX makes individuals in a company personally criminally responsible for certain things.
      3. Make E-Verify somewhat self policing by allowing anyone who is hired without a clear E-Verify being done to claim a large civil reward from the employer.
      4. Amend the Constitution to
        1. Eliminate automatic citizenship to children born in the US to parents who are not in the US legally.
        2. Require that anyone in the country without proper immigration status after the "final" amnesty date be deported.
        3. Require that any adult found to have entered the US illegally unless they had received amnesty on or before the "final" amnesty program termination NEVER be allowed to enter again and never, under any circumstances, be given citizenship or permanent resident status.
        4. Require that all government services except for treatment of critical and immediately life threatening conditions be dependent on proof of legal status.
      •  I agree with you on all of that except (0+ / 0-)

        for denying US citizenship to those born here whose parents are here illegally. I think that, if we start denying citizenship to some people upon birth, we run the risk of creating a two-tiered system.

        Otherwise I agree with you on the rest of everything else. And I would venture to guess that, if there is ever a final bill that addresses immigration reform, the Republicans will demand that as part of any compromise.

      •  So if someone rapes a person not here legally. (0+ / 0-)

        You want the police to ignore the crime b/c it is a misallocation of public funds???

        "Buying Horizon Milk to support organic farming is like purchasing an English muffin in an effort to prop up the British economy." -Windowdog

        by Windowdog on Tue May 10, 2011 at 08:33:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No. (0+ / 0-)

          The law enforcement and justice system "represent" the people as a whole, not an individual victim. Note that a victim can't prevent the state from prosecuting the criminal who victimized them - it's out of their hands (obviously they can perjure themselves and "forget" things when called to testify but that's illegal in itself). Thus, the police and courts should and would identify and prosecute the criminal in the case you describe - it's not a government service that the victim is receiving benefit from.

          Anyway, my post was just intended to give some sort of framework which could disarm the "So, if we grant amnesty now, why wouldn't we just do it again in 25 years?" argument. Other answers are fine, but "just because we won't" isn't going to get an amnesty passed -- too many people recall the amnesty of 1986 which was also supposed to be a "last chance to come forward".

  •  Campaign promise (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AgavePup, Delilah

    Obama campaigned with immigration reform as one of his stated goals. Could be he's just trying to come through. You have to try, even if it looks pretty doomed.

    "Take the victory and keep on marching"

    by SeattleProgressive on Tue May 10, 2011 at 03:07:27 PM PDT

  •  Over on Huffpost, I never saw so many (0+ / 0-)

    outraged closet racists coming out of the woodwork after
    Obama's speech.

    Let them cook their own goose with their rhetoric.

    O, it is excellent to have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant." --Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

    by Wildthumb on Tue May 10, 2011 at 03:35:34 PM PDT

  •  Immigrants create jobs and are good for the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Ferguson

    economy overall according to most economists. How can people here so casually use the Republican line that the undocumented are stealing jobs? They are the workers of the future. and they have 5 million American citizen kids. What is the impact of keeping their parents down? What is the long term effect on deporting their parents?

    And while I like the speech overall, Obama either misstated or is misinformed about the extent of none criminal deportations going on around the country all the time.

  •  I'm not so sure the GOP leadership (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    won't move somewhat toward immigration reform in a bid to wrest the party from the bizarro right. I'm not sure, but my very suspicious mind thinks I have seen a very quiet opening gambit:

    A leftist friend of mine, who is plagued by a rightist friend's never-ending stream of insane bullshit Beckian emails, received a very out-of-character email from his friend a couple of days ago.

    It related a tale about a well-off, white motorist whose SUV broke down. IIRC, he had a flat tire and a spare, but no jack. He tried fruitlessly for a very long time to flag down passing traffic but nobody would stop. Finally, a poor Hispanic family pulled over in a tiny, ancient rice-burner. Their jack was too small so the father, a carpenter, found a chunk of wood along the roadside and sawed it to make a platfrom that would allow his small jack to work for the SUV. Tire changed successfully, the SUV driver tried to pay the family, they would not accept his money, and they were even kind enough to [somehow?] make him the most wonderful bean tortilla he has ever, ever tasted. And lo and behold, this well-off white SUV driver -- and my friend's rightist friend -- had to rethink his knee-jerk bias against poor Hispanic people.

    I would love to think this is the dawning of compassion and enlightenment amongst white Republican males. But I'm just to f*ing cynical to buy it.

    Granted I've spent about 90 minutes searching the internet for this story and haven't been able to find anything quite like it.

    What I did find was a 1997 LA Times article by a black columnist telling how he stopped for a stranded white motorist in LA when thousands of other white motorists would not. He was then joined by another black man and a Hispanic man in trying to fix the car. And I found that story retold almost word-for-word, by some lying scum white supremacist who claimed to be the white motorist (but somewhere in the Heartland, not in LA) on a skinhead forum dated 2007.

    And still the story was just too pat and just happened to end up in the emailbox of a teabagger who receives legions of teabagger email. So, if this is an embryonic attempt by desperate semi-sane elements in the GOP leadership to steer at least some of the right back toward the middle, it has just started and is not yet omnipresent on the toobs.

    I will not be at all surprised to receive something along these lines from one or more of my rightwing nutjob friends in coming months, nor to hear them suddenly decide that a reasonable immigration policy might not be a sign of the End Times and the Antichrist.

  •  Obama also said the next step is for us to demand (0+ / 0-)

    Congress address the issue.   There is already overwhelming support for immigration reform and passing bills like the Dream Act.  We have to make the GOP continue to be the road block to progress that they have been.

    •  I think we'll be surprised. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      By how many Dems sell out immigration reform if it ever has a chance of passing.

      "Buying Horizon Milk to support organic farming is like purchasing an English muffin in an effort to prop up the British economy." -Windowdog

      by Windowdog on Tue May 10, 2011 at 04:59:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As long as here have been borders (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There have been undocumented immigrants. You can't stop it, no matter how many fences you build or ICE agents you deploy. The best you can do is give people a path to citizenship and give people that break the law the boot.

  •  Honestly the more I think about this. (0+ / 0-)

    The more it pisses me off.

    He had time to do this, or EFCA, or a number of other things in his first two years when it was clear he'd never have a better majority to work with. And he really did very little to whip the party to get it done.

    Now election season is ramping up and he needs all those Hispanic votes so he goes down and launches a doomed campaign to pass a bill that won't get a committee hearing in the house.

    I am a fan of this president and a supporter, but this is just election cycle noise that highlights some very real policy failings in his first term.

    "Buying Horizon Milk to support organic farming is like purchasing an English muffin in an effort to prop up the British economy." -Windowdog

    by Windowdog on Tue May 10, 2011 at 05:08:41 PM PDT

  •  I want to point out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, WillR

    one of my big peeves with completely out-of-control border. I don't like to see a law abiding American businessman to have to compete with a business that hires undocumented workers, pays them half prevailing wage, and ignores OSHA, EPA, and wage and hour laws.

    Let tyrants fear.-Queen Elizabeth I

    by Virginia mom on Tue May 10, 2011 at 05:28:51 PM PDT

  •  Thank you President Obama (0+ / 0-)

    "endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights"

    Thank you Mr. President for recognizing that we owe everything to our Creator, and America is truely about an idea, out of many we are one.

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