President Obama's speech on immigration was everything we've come to expect from him.
It was eloquent, compassionate and reasoned. However, the president was still short on details.
He didn't give a timelime for when Congress should pass immigration reform. And he also didn't address when the U.S. Justice Department would file a lawsuit challenging Arizona's new immigration law that will certainly result in racial profiling.
As we say in Spanish it was "mas de lo mismo," more of the same.
I believe the speech also was timed to appease the Hispanic voters, politicians and community groups that rallied behind Obama for president. He had promised to deliver immigration reform within his first year in office and has fallen short of that goal.
But a speech is a speech and the most salient point the president made was that an immigration bill won't go anywhere unless there is Republican support. The 11 Republicans who once supported immigration reform - including Sen. John McCain - have walked away from this hot-button issue.
They and even some Democrats are afraid to touch the issue for fear of losing re-election.
Meanwhile, in cities like Chicago activists continue to protest. Rev.
Jose Landaverde, who had been on a hunger strike for two weeks, was
taken to a hospital Thursday night after fainting. The Immigrant Youth Justice League continues
to organize actions, including a protest Thursday at Republican Congressman Mark Kirk's office.
But will these small but significant efforts change the minds of the
politicos who are on the fence?
I think the only thing that will is if voters from all backgrounds tell Congress that they want immigration reform. The movement has to be broader than just Latinos or immigrants.
We can't stand for two classes of workers in this country that allows the undocumented to be exploited and not fully participate in our society. We all benefit from their labor and most of them are hard-working.
We also need to reform an immigration system full of quotas that give preference to people based on which country they come from. Europeans can just come to the United States without a visa but Mexicans must go through a lengthy process to apply for a visa just to visit the United States. And if they want a green card the waiting time is 15 to 20 years.
But if you are from certain countries, especially Europe, you can apply for a green card lottery. Countries like Mexico, India and the Philippines are excluded from that. Obama didn't address the flaws in the system itself that essentially ranks people based on where they come from.
Republicans like Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer want us to believe that there is chaos at the border. She continues to lie with the most recent claim that there were beheaded bodies found in the Arizona desert, according to a story by the Arizona Guardian. Last week she falsely claimed most undocumented immigrants are drug mules.
The president said in his speech that border security is stronger than ever and crime at the border is actually down.
We doubled the personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces. We tripled the number of intelligence analysts along the border. For the first time, we've begun screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments. And as a result, we're seizing more illegal guns, cash and drugs than in years past. Contrary to some of the reports that you see, crime along the border is down. And statistics collected by Customs and Border Protection reflect a significant reduction in the number of people trying to cross the border illegally.
So the bottom line is this: The southern border is more secure today than at any time in the past 20 years.
I agree that we can't have open borders but the government already has
taken major steps to increase border security.
The president also restated his support for the DREAM Act that would help undocumented youth brought here by their parents.
And we should stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents by denying them the chance to stay here and earn an education and contribute their talents to build the country where they've grown up. The DREAM Act would do this, and that's why I supported this bill as a state legislator and as a U.S. senator -- and why I continue to support it as president.
I think Congress could start addressing immigration reform by first
passing the DREAM Act.
The president also outlined the absurdity of deporting the estimated 11 million people who are undocumented in this country.
Now, if the majority of Americans are skeptical of a blanket amnesty, they are also skeptical that it is possible to round up and deport 11 million people. They know it's not possible. Such an effort would be logistically impossible and wildly expensive. Moreover, it would tear at the very fabric of this nation -- because immigrants who are here illegally are now intricately woven into that fabric. Many have children who are American citizens. Some are children themselves, brought here by their parents at a very young age, growing up as American kids, only to discover their illegal status when they apply for college or a job. Migrant workers -- mostly here illegally -- have been the labor force of our farmers and agricultural producers for generations. So even if it was possible, a program of mass deportations would disrupt our economy and communities in ways that most Americans would find intolerable.
And in the end the president waxed poetic about our nation's history that has always included immigrants and he even cited the poem by Emma Lazarus, "Give me your tired, and your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to be free..." The president concluded by echoing those sentiments.
Let us remember these words. For it falls on each generation to ensure that that lamp -- that beacon -- continues to shine as a source of hope around the world, and a source of our prosperity here at home.
I agree that immigrants have always enriched this country and have done and continue to do the back-breaking work to sustain it. Let's not forget this as this country aims to find a solution.