What a speech by our President! I have goosebumps as I write this post. I am emotional and optimistic. For the first time in my immigration career, I feel like there is real hope for immigration reform.
Today, Tuesday January 29th 2013, in Las Vegas, Nevada, President Obama spoke to a hall full of thousands of people about his visions of immigration reform. I loved that he said if Congress takes too long to decide, he will send them a bill to approve. His conviction makes me believe he WILL make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.
His vision is three fold:
1. Smarter Enforcement: He wants to ensure employers use e-verify to employ legal workers only. They will face repercussions if they employ people without work authorization. (Does this mean he will make e-verify mandatory? Let’s wait to see).
2. Pathway to Citizenship: He said that the 11 million people living in the US illegally must have a clear path to citizenship but they will need to earn it. They must have a background check, pay taxes, pay a penalty and get in the back of the line behind people who are legally here to get citizenship.
3. Legal Immigration: He said he wants to bring our legal immigration system to the 21st century. He gave the example of long delays in bringing family members of citizens. He specifically mentioned students and entrepreneurs (always music to my ears!). He wants to bring foreign entrepreneurs who have backing of American businesses to create jobs.
He is confident that the people and the government can do something about this if they have the resolve, and believes the comprehensive immigration reform is at a moment where it is within our grasp. But he warns that “the closer we get, the more emotional it will get”.
He reminded people that when such debates start, it becomes “us” and “them. But he also reminded people that most of ”us” used to be “them”. He reminded people that “unless you are Native American, you came from somewhere else. Somebody brought you”. He continued to remind people of all the previous generations and groups that came to the US- the Irish, the Germans, the Scandinavians etc. He said the the huddle masses arrived at Ellis Island or at Angel Island. ”All those folks -before they were us, they were them”. He reminded people that each set of immigrants faced hardship from all those that were here. But over time, they did their part to build a nation, whose actions made what America is today. He reminded us that these people were bound not by blood or birth, but allegiance to the US and the next generation of immigrants “can write the next chapter to our story”.
Mr. President gave the example of Alan- a deferred action approved person who attended the conference in person- who is now studying to become a doctor who hopes to join the air force to build a better life for himself and family all he wants is the opportunity to build a better America. The President wants this for all young people.
He continued to warn people that in the coming weeks, as the idea of reform becomes more real and the debates become more heated- and folks who are tyring to make this come apart, to remember this is not just a debate about policy- its about people, men, women, young people who want nothing more to earn their way
I am very encouraged and excited about this speech and cannot wait to see what is yet to come. I am particularly elated to hear that he has addressed entrepreneurs and wants to retain the talented people I see on a regular basis. In his word, he wants the US to be “welcoming everyone who aspires to do something more”.
Thank you Mr. President for raising the hopes of a nation that so desperately needs immigration reform. We stand beside you!