In a momentous speech delivered in Las Vegas last Tuesday, and capitalizing on a post-election surge in popularity, President Obama announced the White House intention to move ahead with immigration reform.
The president said that in order for immigration reform to work
it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship.
The comment was an apparent reference to a provision in the Senate blueprint that would not let illegal immigrants seek citizenship until border security is strengthened. Obama said that illegal immigrants would have to submit to a background check, pay back taxes and fines, learn English and get in the back of the line in order to apply. The president described his plan as "earned citizenship."
Obama claimed a "broad consensus" was emerging on the issue itself, calling the plan outlined by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and others "very much in line" with his own -- aside from the path-to-citizenship provision. "For the first time in many years, Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together," the President said, calling legislation "within our grasp."
He said any plan should include the path to citizenship, but also a crackdown on employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers -- and a better system for verifying the status of those workers. He also called for streamlining the legal immigration system, providing visas for foreign entrepreneurs and retaining sought-after science and math graduate students.
Undoubtedly, President Obama has kicked off his second term with a major push for comprehensive immigration reform, backing a bipartisan Senate plan that includes a path to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. However, there is some criticism leveled at his proposals. Obama’s call for tougher border enforcement and a system for tracking those who overstay visas has sparked concerns he will continue with an approach that saw a record number of deportations in his first term.
Polls seem to support President Obama's approach. However, at this stage comprehensive reform will very likely be passed into law before Obama leaves the White House. That is very good news for millions of hard-working immigrants.
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