Obama Answers DREAMers’ Call For Action
Today President Obama outlined his plan for comprehensive immigration reform, including an answer to DREAMers' call for action. In a campaign-style event in Las Vegas, Obama laid out his plan for reforming the nation's broken immigration system. During the 2012 campaign and ever since the election, the president has continued to emphasize immigration as a top priority for his administration in his second term; most recently during his inaugural address.
"We took up the cause of the DREAMers -- the young people who were brought to this country as children, young people who have grown up here, built their lives here, have futures here," Obama said. "We said that if you’re able to meet some basic criteria like pursuing an education, then we’ll consider offering you the chance to come out of the shadows so that you can live here and work here legally, so that you can finally have the dignity of knowing you belong."
The White House released a fact sheet outlining the key principles that Obama wants to see in a deal:
- Continue to Strengthen Border Security
- Crack Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers
- Create a Path to Earn Citizenship
- Streamline Legal Immigration
The President’s speech comes on the heels of a very rare press conference featuring both Democratic and Republican senators who presented a set of policy principles that will shape a bill due from their chamber in March. Leaders from both sides of the aisle agreed that the politics of the issue have shifted since the last major reform effort in 2007. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said “this will be the year it finally gets done.”
Early reaction to the speech has been positive. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the senators in the bipartisan group, sounded a positive note, saying "“I appreciate the President’s support for our bipartisan effort on comprehensive immigration reform. While there are some differences in our approaches to this issue, we share the belief that any reform must recognize America as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants."
On the House side, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a vocal advocate for immigration reform, said that Obama told him that immigration reform is his number one priority. Gutierrez said that combining that "with a serious bipartisan framework in the Senate and very constructive conversations with my House colleagues in both parties...I am confident we are poised for action and not just more talk on immigration reform."
Grassroots pressure on this administration has increased momentum for change in recent years, with young undocumented immigrants and their allies at the frontlines of the debate. Last summer, advocates achieved a significant victory when President Obama announced a program to offer certain DREAM Act-eligible youth a two-year reprieve from deportation, as well as work authorization for legal employment.
Some of the early reactions from DREAMers are guarded, but optimistic:
"We're looking forward to shared principles, such as the pathway to citizenship, protecting the rights of workers, and, most importantly, ensuring that we fix our system and keep our families together," said Leo Murrieta, Nevada state director for Mi Familia Vota.
"Comprehensive immigration reform is what's most important." said Astrid Silva, a 24-year-old dreamer.
While there is still a long road ahead, this is a major step forward to passing the kind of meaningful immigration reform that will bring justice to millions of young people and their families and help grow the economy.
Eduardo Garcia is advocacy manager at Campus Progress. Follow him @itseddie.
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