Obama's speech on immigration in El Paso es mas de lo mismo


President Barack Obama delivered a televised speech on immigration in the border city of El Paso, Texas, Tuesday afternoon.

I don't think he broke any new ground in the speech and he reiterated many of the campaign promises he has made before.

But I heard the president speak with greater urgency about reform and it's important to note the timing of the speech.

It's a major domestic issue for Obama to bring up in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Will the president now have more political capital to force Republicans and some Democrats to support comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act?


But the re-election campaign is gearing up and Obama needs to reach out to Latino voters, many who are deeply disappointed that thus far his immigration plan has been one only of enforcement and beefing up the border.

Many immigration activists around the country were disappointed in the speech. They had hoped Obama would make some policy change, such as halting the deportation of undocumented youth brought here by their parents or of immigrants who have spouses or children who are U.S. citizens.

Still Obama reiterated his support of the DREAM Act, legislation that would give undocumented youth who complete two years of college or military service a pathway to legalization.

"These are kids who grew up in this country, love this country and know no other place as home. The idea that we would punish them is cruel and it makes no sense. We are a better nation than that," Obama said.

Obama is waiting for Congress to act and with Republicans gaining control of the House and seats in the Senate last year that just isn't likely. So the fact that he didn't announce an executive moratorium on deportations for youth or families was a big disappointment to activists.

Here is a sampling of react from Twitter:

Dont we know it! RT @deporteeswife: @DreamAct That this was a cut and paste speech with no sense of urgency whatsoever.

What was that? Did presidente Obama say anything new about #immigration today in El Paso? NO. Thanks for the tease! #dreamact #Obama2012

Obama blaming Republicans on #DreamAct failure "another disappointment" but HE won't stop #dreamers deportations! #immigration via @carlosQC

It could be worse. Obama could be ignoring the issue but he's going to have to do more to make immigration reform happen.

He did lay out the argument for why it is time to get it done. And that Republicans in Congress have to stop making excuses and start negotiating.

The border is more secure now than ever. Obama said that there are more than 20,000 Border Patrol agents, doubling what there was under President Bush in 2004. They are seizing more drugs, weapons and currency at the border.

He talked about the build up of the fence along the border and for that Obama was booed by the otherwise supportive audience.

Curiously, Obama did not mention that his administration is deporting more immigrants than President Bush did than any president in recent history.

He did say they are targeting criminal immigrants but advocates say too many immigrants, whose only crime is working without papers, are being deported. They also want an end to the Secure Communities program because non-criminal immigrants are being swept up in that.

Obama said that those who are undocumented should have to pay taxes, pass a background check, pay a fine and learn English before they get in line to become legal residents.

Obama also spoke about the economic contributions immigrants have made to this country and that we need their innovations. He ended by telling the story of Jose Hernandez, a farm worker child of immigrants with undocumented siblings, who became an astronaut.

"We are fighting for every boy and girl like Jose with a dream and potential just waiting to be tapped," Obama said. "We are fighting to unlock that promise, and all that it holds not just for their futures, but for the future of this great country."

Obama also noted that immigration reform needs to be supported by the American public.

"We need Washington to know there is a movement for reform gathering strength from coast to coast. That's how we'll get this done. That's how we can ensure in that the years ahead we are welcoming the talents of all who can contribute to this country; and that we are living up to that basic American idea: you can make it if you try."

In the speech Obama went back to his campaign refrain, "Yes we can."

¿Si se puede?

Time will tell.


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