In a highly anticipated event that took place at a Las Vegas High School, President Obama emotionally urged the public in supporting bipartisan efforts at immigration reform, appealing both to voters’ pocketbooks and their sentimentality.
Obama, who faced much criticism from Latino activists for failing to deliver on a 2008 campaign promise to make overhauling immigration policy a priority of his first term, ultimately unveiled a blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform quite similar to the framework released a day earlier by a bipartisan group of eight senators. The plan includes steps for smarter enforcement of immigration laws, a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, and improvements in the legal immigration system.
The president said his blueprint should provide Congress with “key markers” as they work on their own legislation, noting that his plan includes ideas supported by liberals and conservatives alike.
Mr. Obama’s plan does include specific elements found in the Senate plan. For instance, both provide a streamlined pathway to citizenship for “dreamers” — young people who were brought into the country illegally as children who meet a certain set of criteria. Both plans also include certain requirements for other undocumented immigrants who want to earn a green card, such as the requirement to learn English.
Keeping undocumented workers in a “shadow economy” hurts the legitimate economy, he said. Meanwhile, the economy would be improved even further by encouraging high-skilled residents to stay in the country legally, Mr. Obama said, noting that companies like Intel and Instagram were started with the help of immigrants.
Noting the difficulty some foreign college students have staying in the U.S. after graduating, Mr. Obama said, “We’re giving them all the skills they need to [be successful], but then we’re going to turn around and tell them to start that business and create those jobs in China, or India… That’s how you give new industries to our competitors.”
Undocumented immigrants would be able to apply for legal permanent status and eventually earn citizenship, but only after the border is certified secure by a commission of border governors, attorneys general and other border community leaders. They would also have to pass background checks, pay fines and taxes, learn English and wait in line for green cards to prevent them from getting ahead of legal immigrants.
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