President Obama’s speech on Immigration

The debate on immigration is perhaps, one of the most complicated and heated arguments going on in American politics, today. While it touches the core of American culture of a free country that welcomes people from diverse cultures, the opposing opinions and its implications have run into heated and bitter battles. As is perhaps expected, the debate is fueled by underlying opinions that are born of the status, such reforms have on the national identity, the economy, the future of the Americans, the social net, etc.

This 29 the January, 2013 President Obama spoke from Las Vegas about an issue that is sure to raise a lot of speculation. The President spoke of ‘creating a fair and effective immigration system’ which would be able to live up to the heritage of a country that believes in progressive laws and as a nation that has grown with its immigrants.
There is of course some initial confusion over what seems to emerge as a plan that has been perceived as a middle path between two extremes! While there is the possibility of mass deportation on the one hand, there is also provision for blanket amnesty on the other.


The announcement of the immigration plan which has been billed as a ‘commonsense plan’ is probably an aftermath of the president’s election-year announcement in June about the Department of Homeland Security, which would stop trying to deport certain young immigrants, giving a blanket security to many young people.

President Obama’s Immigration reform proposal can be broadly divided into four parts-

– Streamlining the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.
– Continue to strengthen the borders.
– Crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers.
– Hold undocumented immigrants accountable.

This should be done before they earn their citizenship. This requires undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks.

As a broad view, the underlying principle of Obama’s Immigration reform proposal seems to be looking at fixing a damaged immigration system and making laws, which ensure that everyone sticks to the rules and injustice is not done.
The proposal at a glance seems to be more a liberal than a bipartisan effort in the Senate. It suggests quick methods to get citizenship for illegal immigrants, once they overcome their problem areas.

The Presidents efforts are laudable, especially if his Immigration reform proposal is geared at repairing what is often seen as a ‘broken immigration system’. It is also perhaps his way of tackling employers/companies who have been hiring undocumented workers, evading the law, which eventually has led to a situation where there are almost 11 million people, who are living in the shadows. As he points out, ‘Neither is good for the economy or the country.’

When President Obama says that what the country needs is, ‘responsibility from everyone- both from the workers here illegally and those who hire them’, he is probably pricking the conscience of every American.
White House press secretary Jay Carney, says of the proposed reforms that “This is in keeping with the principles the president has been espousing for a long time, in keeping with bipartisan efforts in the past and with the effort this president believes has to end in a law that he can sign”

While much of what the immigration reform stands for, is a welcome proposal, if it is well enacted upon, one must consider the areas that he has chosen to speak on and their importance, both on the American economy and its polity. While measures such as strengthening the border security are welcome and perhaps much needed, one wonders at the implementation of the suggestion of ‘earning the citizenship’ and whether applicants who are now in the shadows will feel safe enough to come out and be assured of being granted citizenship without being discriminated against, under various loop holes in the system that might not have been literally spoken off.

The proposal suggesting that punishing of innocent young people, who are brought into the country through no fault of their own, should be stopped is welcome one that will find many takers. And yet there have been acts of injustice that are much further from the scope of US laws and systems that have been committed on many youngsters. Passing a law without proper implementation will probably have little to no affect on such cases, unless the people indulging in these activities are educated and well admonished themselves.

The streamlining of the legal Immigration laws is perhaps one of the most welcome changes that the proposal has suggested. When the country law makers wakes up to the fact that the immigration system should be friendlier towards those who are willing to work hard and play by the rules, it will indeed be a welcome change for many. The President highlights that for the sake of our economy and security, legal immigration should be made efficient and approachable. The proposal will effectively attract the best minds to work in the United States by providing no hassle visas to foreign entrepreneurs. This includes helping businessmen looking at starting new projects and providing promising foreign graduate students in science and math opportunities to stay in the country, rather than seek out opportunities in other countries.

The biggest asset of course of this proposal which seeks to hasten up and simplify immigration laws will benefit many families who will be able to be reunited with their families in time.

The President’s proposal which also spoke about combating transnational crime and other such grave issues was a welcome break for the immigrant community in many ways. Some definite plus points which have emerged are-

President Obama’s Immigration proposal seeks to improve upon-
The nation’s immigration courts, according to the proposal need improvement. The proposal seeks to invest in immigration courts by increasing the number of immigration judges and other their staff, in order to speed up the process. Making legal information more accessible to immigrants will help improve court efficiency.

The proposal seeks to create “startup visas” for those who create jobs and are entrepreneurs. The proposal also seeks to attract foreign entrepreneurs who seek financing from U.S. investors to start new business or even and grow their businesses in America. This he feels will create jobs for American workers, and strengthen the economy.

The president’s Immigration proposal addresses humanitarian concerns, which are valuable. The proposal seeks to streamline immigration law, which has till now often been harsh on illegal immigrants. The proposal seeks to see a system where the vulnerable immigrants, including victims of crime and domestic violence are better protected. The proposal also talks about protecting those trying to flee persecution by removing the present limitations that have often prevent even qualified individuals from applying for asylum in the United States.

As expected of course, there have been diverse reactions to the President’s proposal; some of the conservatives were quick to express their concern with the proposed reforms and opposition to what they defined as sounding like an ‘amnesty’. After Obama’s speech Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, argued, “Our immigration laws aren’t broken, they just aren’t enforced.” He went on to add that “We’ve been down this road before with politicians promising to enforce the law in return for amnesty. And then after the amnesty, they fail to make good on the enforcement promises. The American people should not be fooled. When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration.”

On the other hand, Cristina Jimenez, managing director of the ‘United We Dream Network’, said that while she welcomes Obama’s immigration proposal, she thinks, ‘he could’ve been more bold’ and acknowledge that numerous families still suffer from being torn apart due to unnecessary deportations.

Reacting to the hesitancy in the minds of many about whether these proposals would actually see the light of the day or just remain a dream, the President said, “I can guarantee that I will put everything I’ve got behind it,”
While even the president acknowledges, that he expects fierce debate ahead, like many other immigrants, who look at him with hope, this reform policy is perhaps necessary not only or the economic growth but also for ensuring the equal opportunity for all.

It is an opportunity for thousands who not only come with great qualifications but with their entrepreneurship skills can add to the employment scenario of the US too. The implementation of these reforms are perhaps more necessary because they represent the right to work hard and to a progress way of looking at citizenship issues.

The Shah Peerally Law Group on behalf of all its clients for whom the firm has been a representation in their fight for immigration justice, hopes that the reforms will come through bringing hope and relief to thousands of immigrants. Feel free to email us at OR even call up for any interpretations you might want about these reforms at- (510) 742-5887

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