Speaking today against the backdrop of the U.S. and Mexican border in El Paso, Texas, President Obama renewed his commitment to the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. His speech honored America’s lasting heritage of immigration – and touted the promise of reform as an economic, security, and moral imperative.
Over time, America’s immigration system has become more and more dysfunctional, failing our country, our economy, and our people. That's why President Obama is calling on Congress, stakeholders, and reform advocates, to take action.
In recent years, comprehensive reform has been derailed time and time again -- by politics, passionate debate, and in many cases, bogus facts and ugly rhetoric. Because the obstacles were too great, each time, Congress passed the buck.
With today’s speech, President Obama aims to end that trend.
The American economy is gaining steam, and reforming our immigration laws will help accelerate that growth:
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.
The President confronted opponents of reform who insist on “border security” as a prerequisite to passing a comprehensive bill:
…We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement.
Additionally, President Obama made clear that passing immigration reform is the right thing to do:
Our laws should respect families following the rules – reuniting them more quickly instead of splitting them apart. Today, the immigration system not only tolerates those who break the rules, it punishes the folks who follow the rules. While applicants wait for approval, for example, they’re often forbidden from visiting the United States. Even husbands and wives may have to spend years apart. Parents can’t see their children. I don’t believe the United States of America should be in the business of separating families. That’s not right. That’s not who we are.
Above all else, President Obama took responsibility to help drive a constructive and civil debate. He pledged to fight for the Dream Act, continue reaching out to Congress and immigration stakeholders, and inform the American public of the benefits and need for reform:
I am asking you to add your voices to this debate – and you can sign up to help at whitehouse.gov. We need Washington to know that there is a movement for reform gathering strength from coast to coast. That’s how we’ll get this done. That’s how we can ensure that in the years ahead we are welcoming the talents of all who can contribute to this country; and that we are living up to that basic American idea: you can make it if you try.