"This is not just a debate about policy," President Obama said. "It's about people...who want nothing more than the chance to earn their way into the American story."
During a campaign-style event in Las Vegas on Tuesday President Obama announced his immigration reform plan. He began the event with an optimistic tone. “For the first time in many years, Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together.”
The basic steps in President Obama’s plan:
- a pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants
- national employment verification system
- guest-worker program
- continue to enhance border security
The president embraced most of the plan that a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators unveiled Monday with one exception: Obama does not agree with Senate guidelines requiring a secure U.S. border before Washington can implement a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But this piece of the plan is a must for many Republicans, including Group of Eight member Senator Marco Rubio, who said today he would not support comprehensive immigration reform that did not first secure our borders. But John McCain, also part of the group of eight senators, praised the president’s speech. McCain said in a statement: “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. We should all agree that border security and enforcement is particularly important in order to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the 1986 immigration reform.”
The bipartisan Senate group hopes to have a bill ready to vote on before early summer. If it falls apart as a similar effort did in 2007, President Obama says he is prepared to send them his own piece of legislation. “We all know that today, we have an immigration system that’s out-of-date and badly broken,” he said. “I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for too long.” According to a recent AP poll, 62% of Americans favor a path to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Also, a CNN poll shows that 53% want a path to legal residency for illegal immigrants.
“In the coming weeks, as the idea of reform becomes more real and the debate becomes more heated and there are folks who are trying to pull this thing apart… remember that this is not just a debate about policy,” President Obama said. “It’s about people. It’s about men and women and young people who want nothing more than the chance to earn their way into the American story.”