By Susana Sanchez, Community Mobilization Intern
Yesterday President Obama gave a speech on immigration reform at American University in Washington, D.C. President Obama promised that: “[the country] can create a pathway to legal status that is fair and works.” Here are some key highlights from the speech:
President Obama on deportation:
“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.”
Nonetheless, the President did not call for putting an end to deportation raids, an extremely pressing issue in our community.
He did recognize that undocumented workers are often exploited due to their legal status. He acknowledged that many get paid below the minimum wage, work at jobs where employers violate safety rules, and some do not report crimes due to fear of deportation. He also said that having an undocumented community hurts the economy because “billions in tax revenue are lost” because they are “paid under the table.” Nevertheless, the President mentioned at least twice in his speech that the country welcomes the “best and brightest” immigrants, which seemed a criticism of the many undocumented immigrants who don’t have high education levels and work primarily blue collar jobs.
Although in his speech the President affirmed his support for immigration reform, he said that undocumented immigrants should be held accountable for breaking the law. For their “eventual inclusion” in immigration reform, immigrants:
“Must get right with the law before they can get in line and earn their citizenship— not just because it is fair, not just because it will make clear to those who might wish to come to America they must do so inside the bounds of the law, but because this is how we demonstrate that being — what being an American means.”
President Obama elaborated on this concept of “getting in line” by talking about paying fines. This obviously poses issues for low-income immigrants, who already pay huge fees to get to the United States and earn less than other workers.
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