President Obama. Comprehensive Immigration Reform

From Mexico, President Obama Says Immigration Reform is Possible Early Next Year

At his press conference a few minutes ago in Mexico, President Obama was asked about the prospects for immigration reform in the United States.  This is answer, as provided by the White House:

With respect to immigration reform, I continue to believe that is also in the long-term interests of the United States.  We have a broken immigration system.  Nobody denies it.  And if we continue on a path we're on, we will continue to have tensions with our Mexican neighbors; we will continue to have people crossing the borders in a way that is dangerous for them, unfair for those who are applying legally to immigrate; we're going to continue to have employers who are exploiting workers because they're not within a legal system, and so oftentimes are receiving less than minimum wage, or don't have overtime, or being abused in other fashion.  That's going to depress U.S. wages.  It's causing ongoing tensions inside the United States. It's not fair and it's not right, and we're going to change it.

Now, I've got a lot on my plate, and it's very important for us to sequence these big initiatives in a way where they don't all just crash at the same time.  And what we've said is in the fall when we come back, we're going to complete health care reform.  We still have to act on energy legislation that has passed the House, but the Senate, I'm sure, is going to have its own ideas about how it wants to approach it.  We still have financial regulatory reform that has to get done because we don't want a situation in which irresponsible actions in the global financial markets can precipitate another crisis.  That's a pretty big stack of bills.

Fortunately, what we've been able to do is to begin meeting with both Democrats and Republicans from the House and the Senate.  Secretary Napolitano is coordinating these discussions, and I would anticipate that before the year is out we will have draft legislation along with sponsors potentially in the House and the Senate who are ready to move this forward, and when we come back next year, that we should be in a position to start acting.

Now, am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done?  No.  This is going to be difficult; it's going to require bipartisan cooperation.  There are going to be demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form of pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable.  And those are fights that I'd have to have if my poll numbers are at 70 or if my poll numbers are at 40.  That's just the nature of the U.S. immigration debate. 

But ultimately, I think the American people want fairness.  And we can create a system in which you have strong border security, we have an orderly process for people to come in, but we're also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don't have to live in the shadows, and their children and their grandchildren can have a full participation in the United States.  So I'm confident we can get it done.

We are particularly pleased to see the President making the case about immigration reform and wages, an argument we helped introduce into the debate last year.  Removing this "trap door" under the minimum wage is one of the most powerful arguments that can be made for immigration reform in a down economy.

As advocates for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, we are pleased with this thoughtful and encouraging answer.  Though of course we think it would be much better to move it this year than next.

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