Updated – COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM | Full Text
Update: Below are comments from community and business leaders regarding the President’s statement.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM
Chamizal National Memorial – El Paso, Texas
1:21 P.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, El Paso! (Applause.) Well, it is wonderful — wonderful to be back with all of you in the Lone Star State. (Applause.) Everything is bigger in Texas. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back! (Applause.) Even the welcomes are bigger. (Applause.) So, in appreciation, I wanted to give a big policy speech outside on a really hot day. (Laughter.) Those of you who are still wearing your jackets, feel free to take them off. I hope everybody is wearing sunscreen.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We live here.
THE PRESIDENT: You say you live here? You don’t need it, huh? (Laughter.) Well, it is a great honor to be here. And I want to express my appreciation to all of you for taking the time to come out today.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause.)
You know, about a week ago, I delivered a commencement address at Miami Dade Community College, which is one of the most diverse schools in the nation. The graduates were proud that their class could claim heritage from 181 countries around the world — 181 countries. (Applause.)
Many of the students were immigrants themselves, coming to America with little more than the dream of their parents and the clothes on their back. A handful had discovered only in adolescence or adulthood that they were undocumented. But they worked hard and they gave it their all, and so they earned those diplomas.
And at the ceremony, 181 flags — one for every nation that was represented — was marched across the stage. And each one was applauded by the graduates and the relatives with ties to those countries. So when the Haitian flag went by, all the Haitian kids — Haitian American kids shouted out. And when the Guatemalan flag went by, all the kids of Guatemalan heritage shouted out. And when the Ukrainian flag went by, I think one kid shouted out. (Laughter.) This was down in Miami. (Laughter.) If it had been in Chicago, there would have been more.
But then, the last flag, the American flag, came into view. And everyone in the room erupted in applause. Everybody cheered. (Applause.) So, yes, their parents and grandparents — some of the graduates themselves — had come from every corner of the globe. But it was here that they had found opportunity. It was here that they had a chance to contribute to the nation that is their home.
And it was a reminder of a simple idea, as old as America itself: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants — a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s ideals and America’s precepts. That’s why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here — so they could be free to work and worship and start a business and live their lives in peace and prosperity. The Asian immigrants who made their way to California’s Angel Island. The German and Scandinavians who settled across the Midwest. The waves of Irish, and Italian, and Polish, and Russian, and Jewish immigrants who leaned against the railing to catch their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
This flow of immigrants has helped make this country stronger and more prosperous. (Applause.) We can point to the genius of Einstein, the designs of I. M. Pei, the stories of Isaac Asimov, the entire industries that were forged by Andrew Carnegie.
And then when I think about immigration I think about the naturalization ceremonies that we’ve held at the White House for members of our military. Nothing could be more inspiring. Even though they were not yet citizens when they joined our military, these men and women signed up to serve.
We did one event at the White House and a young man named Granger Michael from Papua New Guinea, a Marine who had been deployed to Iraq three times, was there. And you know what he said about becoming an American citizen? He said, “I might as well. I love this country already.” That’s all he said. Marines aren’t big on speeches. (Laughter.)
Another was a woman named Perla Ramos who was born and raised in Mexico and came to the United States shortly after 9/11, and joined the Navy. And she said, “I take pride in our flag and the history we write day by day.”
That’s the promise of this country — that anyone can write the next chapter in our story. It doesn’t matter where you come from — (applause) — it doesn’t matter where you come from; it doesn’t matter what you look like; it doesn’t matter what faith you worship. What matters is that you believe in the ideals on which we were founded; that you believe that all of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. (Applause.) All of us deserve our freedoms and our pursuit of happiness. In embracing America, you can become American. That is what makes this country great. That enriches all of us.
And yet, at the same time, we’re here at the border today — (applause) — we’re here at the border because we also recognize that being a nation of laws goes hand in hand with being a nation of immigrants. This, too, is our heritage. This, too, is important. And the truth is, we’ve often wrestled with the politics of who is and who isn’t allowed to come into this country. This debate is not new.
At times, there has been fear and resentment directed towards newcomers, especially in hard economic times. And because these issues touch deeply on what we believe, touch deeply on our convictions — about who we are as a people, about what it means to be an American — these debates often elicit strong emotions.
That’s one reason it’s been so difficult to reform our broken immigration system. When an issue is this complex, when it raises such strong feelings, it’s easier for politicians to defer until the problem the next election. And there’s always a next election.
So we’ve seen a lot of blame and a lot of politics and a lot of ugly rhetoric around immigration. And we’ve seen good faith efforts from leaders of both parties — by the way, I just noticed, those of you who have chairs, if you want to sit down, feel free. There’s no rule about having to stand when I’m —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: — we love you! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: But we’ve seen leaders of both parties who try to work on this issue, but then their efforts fell prey to the usual Washington games. And all the while, we’ve seen the mounting consequences of decades of inaction.
Today, there are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants here in the United States. Some crossed the border illegally. Others avoid immigration laws by overstaying their visas. Regardless of how they came, the overwhelming majority of these folks are just trying to earn a living and provide for their families. (Applause.)
But we have to acknowledge they’ve broken the rules. They’ve cut in front of the line. And what is also true is that the presence of so many illegal immigrants makes a mockery of all those who are trying to immigrate legally.
Also, because undocumented immigrants live in the shadows, where they’re vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses that skirt taxes, and pay workers less than the minimum wage, or cut corners with health and safety laws, this puts companies who follow the rules, and Americans who rightly demand the minimum wage or overtime or just a safe place to work, it puts those businesses at a disadvantage.
Think about it. Over the past decade, even before the recession hit, middle-class families were struggling to get by as the costs went up for everything, from health care, to college tuition, to groceries, to gas. Their incomes didn’t go up with those prices. We’re seeing it again right now with gas prices.
So one way to strengthen the middle class in America is to reform the immigration system so that there is no longer a massive underground economy that exploits a cheap source of labor while depressing wages for everybody else. I want incomes for middle-class families to rise again. (Applause.) I want prosperity in this country to be widely shared. (Applause.) I want everybody to be able to reach that American dream. And that’s why immigration reform is an economic imperative. It’s an economic imperative. (Applause.)
And reform will also help to 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. (Applause.)
But then our laws discourage them from using those skills to start a business or a new industry here in the United States. Instead of training entrepreneurs to stay here, we train them to create jobs for our competition. That makes no sense. In a global marketplace, we need all the talent we can attract, all the talent we can get to stay here to start businesses — not just to benefit those individuals, but because their contribution will benefit all Americans.
Look at Intel, look at Google, look at Yahoo, look at eBay. All those great American companies, all the jobs they’ve created, everything that has helped us take leadership in the high-tech industry, every one of those was founded by, guess who, an immigrant. (Applause.)
So we don’t want the next Intel or the next Google to be created in China or India. We want those companies and jobs to take root here. (Applause.) Bill Gates gets this. He knows a little something about the high-tech industry. He said, “The United States will find it far more difficult to maintain its competitive edge if it excludes those who are able and willing to help us compete.”
So immigration is not just the right thing to do. It’s smart for our economy. It’s smart for our economy. (Applause.) And it’s for this reason that businesses all across America are demanding that Washington finally meet its responsibilities to solve the immigration problem. Everybody recognizes the system is broken. The question is, will we finally summon the political will to do something about it? And that’s why we’re here at the border today.
And I want to say I am joined today by an outstanding Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, who’s been working tirelessly on this issue. (Applause.) Our commissioner who’s working diligently on border issues, Alan Bersin, is there, and we appreciate him — Bersin. (Applause.)
So they’re doing outstanding work. And in recent years, among one of the greatest impediments to reform were questions about border security. And these were legitimate concerns. What was true was a lack of manpower and a lack of resources at the border, combined with the pull of jobs and ill-considered enforcement once folks were in the country.
All this contributed to a growing number of undocumented people living in the United States. And these concerns helped unravel a bipartisan coalition that we had forged back when I was in the United States Senate. So in the years since, “borders first, borders first,” that’s become the common refrain, even among those who were previously supportive of comprehensive immigration reform.
But over the last two years, thanks to the outstanding work of Janet and Alan and everybody who’s down here working at the border, we’ve answered those concerns. Under their leadership, we have strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible. They wanted more agents at the border. Well, we now have more boots on the ground on the southwest border than at any time in our history. (Applause.)
The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents — more than twice as many as there were in 2004. It’s a build-up that began under President Bush and that we’ve continued, and I had a chance to meet some of these outstanding agents, and actually saw some of them on horseback who looked pretty tough. (Laughter.) So we put the agents here.
Then they wanted a fence. Well, the fence is —
THE PRESIDENT: The fence is now basically complete.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Tear it down!
THE PRESIDENT: Then we’ve gone further. We tripled the number of intelligence analysts working at the border. I’ve deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the skies from Texas to California. We have forged a partnership with Mexico to fight the transnational criminal organizations that have affected both of our countries. (Applause.) And for the first time — for the first time we’re screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments to seize guns and money going south even as we go after drugs that are coming north. (Applause.)
So, here’s the point. I want everybody to listen carefully to this. 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. All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done. But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I’ve got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: They’re racist!
THE PRESIDENT: You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they’re going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol. Or they’ll want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat. (Laughter.) Maybe they want alligators in the moat. (Laughter.) They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.
But the truth is the measures we’ve put in place are getting results. Over the past two and a half years, we’ve seized 31 percent more drugs, 75 percent more currency, 64 percent more weapons than ever before. (Applause.) And even as we have stepped up patrols, apprehensions along the border have been cut by nearly 40 percent from two years ago. That means far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally.
And also, despite a lot of breathless reports that have tagged places like El Paso as dangerous, violent crime in southwest border counties has dropped by a third. El Paso and other cities and towns along this border are consistently among the safest in the nation. (Applause.) Of course, we shouldn’t accept any violence or crime. And we’ve always got more work to do. But this progress is important and it’s not getting reported on.
And we’re also going beyond the border. Beyond the border, we’re going after employers who knowingly exploit people and break the law. (Applause.) And we are deporting those who are here illegally. And that’s a tough issue. It’s a source of controversy.
But I want to emphasize we’re not doing it haphazardly. We’re focusing our limited resources and people on violent offenders and people convicted of crimes — not just families, not just folks who are just looking to scrape together an income. And as a result, we’ve increased the removal of criminals by 70 percent. (Applause.)
That’s not to ignore the real human toll of a broken immigration system. Even as we recognize that enforcing the law is necessary, we don’t relish the pain that it causes in the lives of people who are just trying to get by and get caught up in the system.
And as long as the current laws are on the books, it’s not just hardened felons who are subject to removal, but sometimes families who are just trying to earn a living, or bright, eager students, or decent people with the best of intentions. (Applause.)
And sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how a democracy works. What we really need to do is to keep up the fight to pass genuine, comprehensive reform. That is the ultimate solution to this problem. That’s what I’m committed to doing. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we can. We can do it. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
THE PRESIDENT: The most significant step we can now take to secure the borders is to fix the system as a whole so that fewer people have the incentive to enter illegally in search of work in the first place. This would allow agents to focus on the worst threats on both of our — both sides of our borders, from drug traffickers to those who would come here to commit acts of violence or terror. That’s where our focus should be.
So, El Paso, the question is whether those in Congress who previously walked away in the name of enforcement are now ready to come back to the table and finish the work that we’ve started. (Applause.) We’ve got to put the politics aside. And if we do, I’m confident we can find common ground.
Washington is lagging behind the country on this. There is already a growing coalition of leaders across America who don’t always see eye-to-eye, but are coming together on this issue. They see the harmful consequences of a broken immigration system for their businesses and for their communities, and they understand why we need to act.
There are Democrats and Republicans, people like former Republican Senator Mel Martinez; former Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; leaders like Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York; evangelical ministers like Leith Anderson and Bill Hybels; police chiefs from across the nation; educators; advocates; labor unions; chambers of commerce; small business owners; Fortune 500 CEOs.
I mean, one CEO had this to say about reform: “American ingenuity is a product of the openness and diversity of this society. Immigrants have made America great as the world leader in business, in science, higher education and innovation.” You know who that leader was? Rupert Murdoch, who owns FOX News, and is an immigrant himself. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Rupert Murdoch’s views, but let’s just say he doesn’t have an Obama sticker on his car. (Laughter.) But he agrees with me on this. (Applause.)
So there is a consensus around fixing what’s broken. And now we need Congress to catch up. Now we need to come together around reform that reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants; reform that demands that everybody take responsibility. So what would comprehensive reform look like?
First, we know that government has a threshold responsibility to secure our borders and enforce the law. And that’s what Janet and all her folks are doing. That’s what they’re doing. (Applause.)
Second, businesses have to be held accountable if they exploit undocumented workers. (Applause.)
Third, those who are here illegally, they have a responsibility as well. So they broke the law, and that means they’ve got to pay their taxes, they’ve got to pay a fine, they’ve got to learn English. And they’ve got to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they get in line for legalization. That’s not too much to ask. (Applause.)
And fourth, stopping illegal immigration also depends on reforming our outdated system of legal immigration. (Applause.) We should make it easier for the best and the brightest to not only stay here, but also to start businesses and create jobs here. In recent years, a full 25 percent of high-tech startups in the U.S. were founded by immigrants. That led to 200,000 jobs here in America. I’m glad those jobs are here. I want to see more of them created in this country. We need to provide them the chance. (Applause.)
We need to provide our farms a legal way to hire workers that they rely on, and a path for those workers to earn legal status. (Applause.) And our laws should respect families following the rules — reuniting them more quickly instead of splitting them apart. (Applause.)
Today, the immigration system not only tolerates those who break the rules, but it punishes folks who follow the rules. While applications — 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. We can do better than that. (Applause.)
And we should stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents. (Applause.) We should stop denying them the chance to earn an education or serve in the military. And that’s why we need to pass the DREAM Act. (Applause.) Now, we passed the DREAM Act through the House last year when Democrats were in control. But even though it received a majority of votes in the Senate, it was blocked when several Republicans who had previously supported the DREAM Act voted no.
That was a tremendous disappointment to get so close and then see politics get in the way. And as I gave that commencement at Miami Dade, it broke my heart knowing that a number of those promising, bright students — young people who worked so hard and who speak about what’s best in America — are at risk of facing the agony of deportation. These are kids who grew up in this country. They love this country. They know no other place to call home. The idea that we’d punish them is cruel. It makes no sense. We’re a better nation than that. (Applause.)
So we’re going to keep fighting for the DREAM Act. We’re going to keep up the fight for reform. (Applause.) And that’s where you come in. I’m going to do my part to lead a constructive and civil debate on these issues. And we’ve already had a series of meetings about this at the White House in recent weeks. We’ve got leaders here and around the country helping to move the debate forward.
But this change ultimately has to be driven by you, the American people. You’ve got to help push for comprehensive reform, and you’ve got to identify what steps we can take right now — like the DREAM Act, like visa reform — areas where we can find common ground among Democrats and Republicans and begin to fix what’s broken.
So I’m asking you to add your voices to this debate. You can sign up to help at whitehouse.gov. We need Washington to know that there is a movement for reform that’s 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’re living up to the basic American idea that you can make it here if you try. (Applause.)
That’s the idea that gave hope to José Hernández. Is José here? Where’s — José is right over there. (Applause.) I want you to hear — I want you to think about this story. José’s parents were migrant farm workers. And so, growing up, he was too. He was born in California, though he could have just as easily been born on the other side of the border, if it had been a different time of year, because his family moved around with the seasons. So two of his siblings were actually born in Mexico.
So they traveled a lot, and José joined his parents picking cucumbers and strawberries. And he missed part of school when they returned to Mexico each winter. José didn’t learn English until he was 12 years old. But you know what, José was good at math and he liked math. And the nice thing is that math was the same in every school, and it’s the same in Spanish as it is in English.
So José studied, and he studied hard. And one day, he’s standing in the fields, collecting sugar beets, and he heard on a transistor radio that a man named Franklin Chang-Diaz — a man with a surname like his — was going to be an astronaut for NASA. So José decided — right there in the field, he decided — well, I could be an astronaut, too.
So José kept on studying, and he graduated high school. And he kept on studying, and he earned an engineering degree. And he kept on studying, and he earned a graduate degree. And he kept on working hard, and he ended up at a national laboratory, helping to develop a new kind of digital medical imaging system.
And a few years later, he found himself more than 100 miles above the surface of the Earth, staring out of the window of the shuttle Discovery, and he was remembering the boy in the California fields with that crazy dream that in America everything is possible. (Applause.)
Think about that, El Paso. That’s the American Dream right there. (Applause.) That’s what we’re fighting for. We are fighting for every boy and every girl like José with a dream and potential that’s just waiting to be tapped. We are fighting to unlock that promise, and all that holds not just for their futures, but for America’s future. That’s why we’re going to get this done. And that’s why I’m going to need your help.
Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 1:56 P.M. MDT
Statements of Support for President Obama’s Commitment to Fix our Broken Immigration System
Below please see statements of support for the President’s commitment to fix our broken immigration system to meet our 21st century economic and security needs from business leaders, civic leaders and elected officials.
Howard Buffett, American philanthropist and President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation
“There are a lot of mistaken assumptions about the role of immigrants in our society and their contributions. We need to develop reform policies that get people to pay back taxes, become legal, invest more in their communities, and, in the process, help our economy. But we need a rational and long overdue conversation on the issue in order to make it happen, including acknowledging we already have made a lot of progress on border security issues.”
Randy Johnson, Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
“We need to tee the issue up so we are ready to go whenever. We need immigration reform and to give credit to both the Bush and Obama Administration for taking important steps to secure the border and lay the groundwork for a broader reform that our country needs.”
“HP applauds President Obama’s ongoing commitment to fostering global competitiveness and driving continued innovation leadership by the United States. Businesses such as HP need to be able to attract and retain the world’s brightest minds. Comprehensive, balanced immigration reform will help America’s companies compete for the world’s top talent.”
“We appreciate President Obama’s continued focus on comprehensive immigration reform. Permanently fixing the employment-based green card and visa systems that U.S. employers use to create jobs and grow the economy is in the national interest and must be a top priority of reform efforts. As the President made clear, in a global marketplace, ‘we need all the talent we can get,’ for the benefit of all Americans. Highly educated, foreign-born professionals have a long history of making great contributions to our country, and we must allow them to continue doing so. America must have an employment-based immigration system that lets us ‘out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,’ and we call on the President, Congress and all stakeholders to work together to achieve that goal this year.”
American Council on International Personnel
“We applaud the President for keeping the spotlight on comprehensive immigration reform today. A key part of that reform effort must be fixing the outdated employment-based green card and visa systems that U.S. employers use to ensure that the companies that will drive U.S. job creation, innovation and economic growth ‘take root,’ as the President said, in America. We Hope that Washington will heed the President’s call today to ‘summon the political will’ and work toward permanent, meaningful and common sense employment-based immigration reform this year.”
Silicon Valley Leadership Group
“Silicon Valley – and America’s Innovation Economy – require top talent from here and around the globe. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group stands with President Obama to ensure our education system once again becomes the best in the world so that we can grow our own talent, while simultaneously enacting immigration policies that attract the best talent from around the world.”
“Microsoft believes that immigration reform is both a moral and an economic imperative for our nation. Everyone agrees that our current system is deeply flawed and serves no one well. It will take policymakers on all sides of the issue working together to fix it. There is also widespread agreement that America needs more highly-skilled and highly-educated professional workers. Highly-skilled workers contribute to the innovation that drives the American economic recovery. Now, more than ever, we need smart policies to build the “innovation workforce” for our future. We must ensure that American students receive top-notch science, technology, and mathematics education here at home. At the same time, we must provide American employers with access to the world’s most highly skilled individuals, regardless of where those workers were born. We applaud the President for keeping the need for immigration reform at the forefront and for having the vision to recognize that immigration reform is essential to our future economic strength. We will continue to work with the President, the Congress and a diverse set of stakeholders to find creative solutions to this critically important issue for our nation’s future.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
“Like business leaders and mayors across the country, President Obama recognizes that fixing our immigration system is an economic imperative, and Americans of both political parties want an immigration reform effort focused on job creation. Moving forward, we need the discussion in Washington to focus on areas of consensus that can keep America competitive in the global market.”
El Paso Mayor John Cook
“There are many reasons we need immigration reform. We need to end our forced brain drain and find ways to keep the students that we educate here contributing to our communities and society.”
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro
“I applaud President Obama for clearly defining immigration reform as a priority for the future of America. It is time for policy to take precedence over politics. Securing our borders and securing our economic future with a 21st century workforce are not mutually exclusive goals.”
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley
“In Chicago, we embrace and celebrate our city’s diversity and its history as a city of immigrants. We know that immigrants have been essential in building cities like Chicago throughout our great nation. And they continue to make it great. The contributions of people who came here from other countries to achieve the American dream are tremendous. They make Chicago a stronger city, a more vibrant city and an international city. I have always lent my voice in support of sensible reform of our nation’s immigration laws. And, I am happy to support national efforts like those of President Obama. I believe all of us have an obligation to work together to send a clear message that immigrants are valued and welcome participants and stakeholders in this country. This is a nation of immigrants, and we need to work together for sensible immigration laws, so America can continue to be a beacon of hope and opportunity to hard-working people from other lands.”
Arizona House Democrats
“House Democrats are thankful that President Obama is finally working hard to get the job done on immigration reform – something border states like Arizona need to boost our economy and make our neighbourhoods safe….We need comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level to get the job done and ensure that all immigrants play by the rules, pay back taxes, learn English and undergo a background check. Republicans at the state legislature have chosen not to focus on efficient, common-sense solutions; rather, they have only managed to ender the state into expensive lawsuits that produce no results and fail to address the crime and violence along the border and in our neighbourhoods. It’s time for real solutions at the federal level so we can finally solve this problem once and for all.”
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Charles Gonzalez
“Today, the President reinforced the importance of fixing out broken immigration system, not only for the sake of our national security but also to give our country an economic advantage in today’s global economy. The President delivered with sincerity his commitment to fixing our current system, to bringing the millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and continuing to secure our borders and enforcing our laws. This Administration has made unprecedented progress on its promise for increased border security and has undoubtedly made our country safer. But enforcement alone is not the solution. We can fix our broken immigration system that works in the best interest of our nation but we need Republicans working with us, not against us.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
“In his speech today, President Obama reminded the nation of the contributions immigrants have made to this country; since our nation’s founding, those who have come to our shores to be part of the American dream have brought their hopes, aspirations, and optimism for a better future. President Obama outlined his Administration’s efforts to secure our nation’s borders. Republicans have called this progress a prerequisite before addressing the larger challenge; we continue to take strong action to address the security of our borders and now we must take strong action on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform. Last year, the Democratic House passed the DREAM Act with a bipartisan vote; it faced Republican obstruction in the Senate, but would have given hundreds of thousands of young people brought to our country without a choice the chance to earn legal status. We must heed the President’s call and join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Tri-Caucus, Members on both sides of the Capitol, the business community, faith leaders, educators, public safety officials to enact comprehensive immigration reform. The challenge of reforming America’s immigration laws is too great to be ignored.”
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman
“The President’s speech today brings welcome attention to security issues at the southern border, the rationale for immigration reform, and the inextricable relationship between the two…. After listening to law enforcement officials on the frontlines of border states, the Department of Homeland Security, and experts in the field, I have concluded that our borders will never be as secure as we need them to be without addressing the underlying reasons that most people come to the United States illegally: to find employment, and reunite with family members. Smart immigration reform can accomplish that, is essential to our border security, and will advance economic innovation and growth. The President’s constructive and civil tone today should set the standard for this debate in Congress, where consensus on a legislative solution must be reached for the future of both our economic and national security. I pledge to work with the Administration and my colleagues in the Senate on both sides of the aisle in an effort to achieve smart immigration reform this Congress.”
Senator Michael Bennet
“Politics and needless partisanship have stood in the way of comprehensive immigration reform for far too long. Coloradans are tired of the empty and divisive rhetoric coming out of Washington that does absolutely nothing to address what amounts to a very serious economic and national security challenge for our country. I am committed to building consensus around a comprehensive bill that secures our border, punishes employers who break the law, and requires the undocumented to become legal, learn English, pay a fine and go to the back of the line. As we work to enact comprehensive reform, we can take smaller steps to help improve the overall system, including efforts to bolster security at our borders and pass the DREAM Act, which is good for our economy, good for our national security and good for American taxpayers.”
Senator Patrick Leahy
“Immigration reform is a complicated and emotional topic, and while there are many differences of opinion, there are more areas in which we are in agreement. I believe one thing is clear, however: We cannot ‘enforce’ our way out of our current situation. The President and his team have made strides in enforcement. Truly comprehensive immigration reform must preserve family unity, account for the Nation’s economic needs, protect American workers, and improve our Nation’s border security. I stand ready to work with President Obama, Secretary Napolitano, and leaders in Congress to reform our immigration laws in a fair, sensible, and effective way. There is bipartisan agreement that reform is needed. I hope we can come together to achieve that goal.”
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick
“I thank the President for his leadership. We need comprehensive reform of our immigration laws in the Congress and we need it now. Reform that works, as the President said, is reform that is consistent with our values as a Nation both of laws and of immigrants.”
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton
“Today President Obama spoke the truth about immigration reform. I strongly support the President’s position that fixing our broken immigration system is an economic imperative as well as a moral obligation. Reforming immigration rewards businesses that follow the rules, pay their workers good wages, and provide safe places to work. This benefits all American workers. Minnesota has long been enriched by immigrants, and I look forward to working with the President to strengthen our heritage and provide opportunities for all American workers to contribute to our future prosperity.”
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire
“I commend President Obama for his continued work to improve our nation’s immigration laws and border protection, and for ensuring the discussion continues until we see real reform. I have been calling for a comprehensive federal immigration reform package since I was elected governor. With Washington’s $35 billion agriculture industry at stake, Washington growers need a federal guest-worker program that is responsive, efficient and affordable. I am pleased that President Obama is open to new ideas, and hope our lawmakers in Congress intensify efforts to lead a civil debate and move forward with legislative action to fix our broken immigration system.”
CIVIC LEADERS AND ADVOCATES FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM
Galen Carey, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals
“For evangelicals, the important thing to remember is that this issue is about people – all of whom need respect, both in enforcement policy as well as immigration reform. Though we have a wide variety of theological positions at NAE, we maintain broad support for immigration reform.”
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles
“The president and Congress can no longer wait to address this important issue. In the absence of comprehensive reform, many states and localities are taking the responsibility of enforcing immigration law into their own hands. This has led to abuses and injustices for many U.S. families and immigrant communities. Our current policies are breaking up families in the name of enforcing our laws. That should not be. We should be reuniting and strengthening families — not separating wives from husbands and children from their parents.”
Angela M. Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy, Center for American Progress
“We strongly applaud President Barack Obama for reclaiming the initiative on immigration today with his speech in El Paso, Texas. His willingness to lead the charge for comprehensive immigration reform will help ensure the safety and prosperity of all Americans. We urge Congress to embrace the president’s call to action and rise above the partisan bickering that has obscured the value of America’s newcomers and obstructed a path to effective reform.”
United Food And Commercial Workers International Union
“The UFCW supports President Obama’s effort today in El Paso, Texas, to make immigration reform—an important part of our country’s path to economic recovery—a priority. The United States has successfully established border security, which is an important part of solving our nation’s immigration challenge. But, it is only a piece. We have a moral and economic obligation to move forward on a path that brings the 11 million immigrant workers out of the shadows and into the full light of our democracy and our economy.
National Immigration Forum
“Enormous progress has been made at the border and the security benchmarks set by Congress have been met. It’s time for Republicans to stop focusing solely on the border and to stop making excuses for why they cannot get anything done. As the President and Secretary Napolitano have made clear, the border is as secure as can be achieved without comprehensive immigration reform. If they are serious about border security, the Republicans should engage in a comprehensive solution. Republicans must offer more than tough talk and tired “border first” talking points. Border security is a necessary but insufficient part of getting immigration reform right. Alone, it will not stop the jobs magnet, and it fails to address how to bring the 11 million unauthorized immigrants into the system legally. And it does nothing to reform our legal immigration system so that it can respond flexibly to future labor market needs. We don’t need window dressing, more wasteful spending, more gimmicks and tough talk, or more empty gestures. We need leadership on comprehensive reform. The conditions exist for a bipartisan breakthrough that would move the country forward and represent real progress for the American people—as long as our leaders in Washington will lead.”
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Education Fund
“Comprehensive immigration reform must provide a path to U.S. citizenship for those immigrants who have played by the rules and are contributing to our society. Our immigration policies must also promote family reunification and the civic integration of newcomers, in addition to providing a meaningful opportunity for immigrant students to pursue a college education and restore public confidence in a system of laws that promotes national security.”
Interfaith Immigration Coalition
“As people of faith, we need the admonitions in our holy scriptures not to wrong or oppress the “stranger” among us. Unfortunately, we see evidence of such wrongdoing and oppression of immigrants across the country today. While we are pleased that you continue to speak about the need for Congressional action to reform our broken immigration system, in its absence, policy changes are urgently needed to uphold family unity and promote community safety.”
National Council of La Raza
“NCLR applauds the fact that President Obama is using his bully pulpit to reinvigorate the push for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Coming on the heels of one of the most important national counterterrorism measures of his administration, the speech underscores the importance of this issue to the country.”
American Immigration Council
“Today, President Obama offered his most concrete articulation of a new way forward for resolving our broken immigration system. Echoing and expanding upon the concepts of innovation, entrepreneurship, and the American Dream, the President invited the American public to join him in pressing Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.”
National Hispanic Leadership Agenda
“Today I am encouraged that President Obama has made this crucial issue a priority. But for the President’s message to take hold, he must show that this is not a Hispanic issue, this is an American issue. We move forward for the benefit of all or fail once again to the nation’s detriment. With a struggling economy and weakened labor force, we cannot afford to prohibit the millions currently living in the shadows from fully contributing to our economy.”
“Since the introduction of Kennedy-McCain 6 years ago, the strategy for fixing the broken immigration system has been enhanced enforcement, a better system for managing the future flow of immigrants, and a path to legal status for the 11 million undocumented already here. Through greater cooperation with Mexico, a better border strategy and more resources, we’ve seen clear and demonstrable progress in making the border safer in recent years. Now that the government has shown that it can fix a piece of the broken immigration system, it is time to get on with the rest of the immigration reform agenda, and truly build an immigration system which meets the needs of our modern economy and does so in a way consistent with our time-honored values. We are pleased the President did not let the current intensity of Republican opposition to immigration reform deter him. The immigration system is badly broken in the US, and needs to be fixed. The President is offering a smart and clear path forward. It is going to take some work, but we agree with the President that working together we can come together and fix this critical problem. And that effort began today. Kudos to the President for not giving up, and showing the kind of leadership Americans expect from their President.”