“This is not about policy—it's about people.”
President Obama announced his principles for a comprehensive immigration reform today in Las Vegas, Nevada, before a packed audience. The much anticipated speech was light on details and specifics, but like the principles published by the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” the day before, it provided a framework upon which a comprehensive immigration reform bill can be based.
After celebrating our country’s legacy of being the premier destination for the world’s best and brightest, and highlighting the important contributions that immigrants have made to American culture, development, and economics, both past and present, the president then underscored the primary reason for reforming our immigration system comprehensively.
This issue is about eleven million undocumented people—“eleven million who live their lives in the shadows.” These people go about their daily lives trying to get by in the United States, all the while being out-of-status. “It’s about men and women, and young people who want nothing more than a chance to earn their way into the American story.”
Before outlining his own principles for reform, President Obama applauded the framework published by the “Gang of Eight,” pointing out the similarity it shares with his own plan, and said that if Congress did not move quickly enough in drafting a reform bill, that he would submit his own CIR bill to Congress and ask for a vote.
President Obama’s plan is based on three basic principles:
- Continued Enforcement
Obama called for continued focus on enforcing border security along the southern border. This means maintaining high-levels of Border Patrol. Additionally, he wants to apply the E-Verify system nationwide, making the program mandatory for all employers to check the immigration status of new hires, and penalizing employers who hire undocumented workers.
- Earned Citizenship
Undocumented immigrants must be able to change their status to seek permanent residency and eventually citizenship. President Obama was emphatic that for reform to work, an attainable, functional roadmap to citizenship must exist. Undocumented immigrants must earn their way to citizenship by submitting to background checks, paying back-taxes, paying a fine, and going “to the back of the line.”
- Updating legal immigration
Finally, the President wants to overhaul the immigration system to facilitate legal migration to the US. Families should not have to wait years to be reunited with family members awaiting entry visas. Students attending American universities for master’s degrees and PhDs should be granted permanent residency in an expedited process to keep talented individuals here.
We are excited that, like the Senate’s plan, the President’s principles are centered on a fair and humane roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented Americans. The challenge will now be to hold our leaders in Congress and the White House true to their promise to finally pass a comprehensive immigration reform. You can do your part by adding your name today to demand a reform bill that creates a roadmap to citizenship!