It’s up to Congress now to tackle the thorny issue of immigration reform after President Obama made his case Tuesday standing on the U.S. border, according to reform supporters.
Obama traveled to the border at El Paso, Texas to call for enactment of comprehensive immigration reform, an issue that both Obama and his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, have so far been unsuccessful in accomplishing.
“So one way to strengthen the middle class in America is to reform the immigration system so that there is no longer a massive underground economy that exploits a cheap source of labor while depressing wages for everybody else. I want incomes for middle-class families to rise again,” Obama says. “I want prosperity in this country to be widely shared. I want everybody to be able to reach that American dream. And that’s why immigration reform is an economic imperative. It’s an economic imperative.
“And reform will also help to make America more competitive in the global economy. Today, we provide students from around the world with visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities,” the president adds.
Independent advocates praised Obama’s remarks, and now want lawmakers to step up to the plate.
“The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund appreciates President Obama traveling to the border city of El Paso, Texas to speak this afternoon about the important issue of comprehensive immigration reform,” the organization, which facilitates Latinos in the American political process, says in a statement released after the president’s appearance. “He reiterated in his remarks today that border security is a top priority and is indeed being addressed, but not at the expense of fixing our broken immigration system.
“The President has listened to the community and is clearly ready to move forward. It is now time for Congress to do the same,” the NALEO statement adds.
A prominent group which represents U.S. cities also calls for immigration reform.
The mushrooming number of immigration statutes at the state and local level, such as Arizona’s controversial state law, demands federal action on the matter, according to the National League of Cities (NLC).
NLC calls for the president and Congress to overcome their differences and find a way to move forward. Reform will provide an avenue for cities to move illegal immigrants out of the shadows and allow them to become fully contributing participants within their communities, the organization says in a statement.
“Immigration has been a source for economic growth and innovation. From its founding, the nation has been strengthened socially, culturally and economically by recent immigrants,” says James Mitchell Jr., president of NLC and a councilmember in Charlotte, N.C.
“Our nation needs to remain open to new sources of ideas and inspiration if we are to compete in the global market,” he adds.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also praised Obama’s approach, saying that immigration reform must mean more than secure U.S. borders.
“No one can deny we have made significant strides in securing our border –- with more border patrol agents, better surveillance technology and a stronger fence than ever before. Democrats know there’s more work to be done, which is why we successfully fought a Republican budget that would have fired border agents and put our safety at risk. But as the President said today, to fix our broken immigration system, we must honestly assesses our immigration policies and their impact on our economy, legal system and local governments, and pursue a comprehensive solution to the problem,” Reid says.
“We need an effective and efficient legal immigration system. Part of securing our nation is knowing who is already here, so we must require the 11 million undocumented immigrants to register with the government, pay taxes and fines, learn English and go to the back of the line before they can achieve legal status,” he adds. “We should give the best and brightest students from around the globe –- who come here to take advantage of our world-class education system –- a chance to start businesses that employ American workers.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.