Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Obama, Senators Present Aims for Immigration Reform

U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled his goals for comprehensive immigration reform on Tuesday afternoon.

Obama emphasized that “now is the time” for reform and presented plan in order to accomplish this based on better border enforcement, cracking down on businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers, improving the legal immigration system and a pathway for citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Regarding the final point, Obama said that a potential road for citizenship should include “passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally”. 

"The question now is simple.  Do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government to finally put this issue behind us? I believe that we do," said Obama during a speech in Nevada.

The president also praised a reform plan presented by a bipartisan group of senators yesterday as “very much in line with the principles I've proposed and campaigned on for the last few years.”
Much like Obama’s immigration goals, the plan from the “Gang of Eight” coincides on the same basic principles.  Yet the Senate proposal differs in a few ways such as making a road to citizenship for undocumented immigrants conditional on stronger border enforcement.

The proposals have been met with cautious optimism among some Latino pro-immigration campaigners:

Activists like Maria Duran, who sat up all night with others at a prayer vigil for immigration reform outside the capitol building in Phoenix, Arizona, were pleased but cautious.
"It's the best moment for immigration reform in years, but we need to see more details," said the 50-year-old homemaker, who left Mexico to live in the United States 28 years ago, but still does not have legal status… 
“(The Senate plan) is really heavy on enforcement. That has always been one of the wedge issues in the community for activists," said Gaby Pacheco, a campaigner in Florida who was brought to the United States from Ecuador at the age of eight. 
While the government's own figures showed arrests on the southwest border at a 40-year low in 2011 and deportations at a record high, Pacheco said, "I don't think Republicans are ever going to be satisfied with enforcement measures."
Both proposals are in reaction to attracting a growing Latino vote that was key in helping Obama secure his reelection last year.  Thus the president had vowed to make immigration reform a top legislative priority in his second term.

Meanwhile, some Republican politicians have toned down their rhetoric opposed to immigration such as tea party-backed conservative Sen. Marco Rubio who allied himself to the “Gang of Eight.”  Nevertheless, the plans will likely face harsh opposition from some GOP legislators like Sen. David Vitter who deemed claimed that the Senate plan “is a recipe for failure.”

A third immigration reform could be announced as soon as this week by a bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives. 

Video Source– YouTube via euronews

Online Sources – CNN, National Journal, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, NPR

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