Activists wonder if it’s just campaign talk or if he really means business.
President Obama headed to El Paso, Texas, the nation’s largest border city, to deliver remarks Tuesday afternoon on immigration reform and border security. Critics on both sides of the debate have charged that Obama hasn’t delivered the comprehensive immigration reform that he promised during his 2008 presidential campaign.
Republicans have charged that his administration has done little to stave the flow of illegal immigrants sneaking into the United States. But according to the president, he has gone “above and beyond” what they’ve requested, doubling the number of Border Patrol agents to 20,000 and tripling the number of intelligence analysts. In addition, he has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles that patrol between Texas and California and has formed a partnership with Mexico to fight criminal organizations that deal drugs and arms.
“I suspect there will be those who will try to move the goal posts one more time. They’ll say we need to triple the border patrol. Or quadruple the border patrol. They’ll say we need a higher fence to support reform,” Obama said. “Maybe they’ll say we need a moat. Or alligators in the moat. They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that; that’s politics.”
The president believes there’s an economic incentive to support immigration reform. He said that undocumented immigrants “living in the shadows” are vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses that pay them wages that are lower than the minimum rate required by law and often force them to work under substandard health and safety conditions.
“This puts companies who follow [the rules], and Americans who rightly demand the minimum wage or overtime or just a safe place to work at an unfair disadvantage,” Obama said.
He also pointed to the visas issued to students from around the world who come to the U.S. to study engineering and computer science, arguing that they should be allowed to use those skills to start businesses here.
“Instead of training entrepreneurs to create jobs in America, we train them to create jobs for our competition,” Obama said.
So, what’s the answer to some of these challenges?
According to the President, businesses that exploit undocumented workers must be held accountable. He also proposed a path to becoming legal that would involve coming forward, paying taxes and learning English. They also would have to go through a background check and other steps to be considered for legalization. In addition, the White House released on Tuesday a blueprint for immigration reform.
Pro-immigration reform activists have charged recently that the speech provided Obama with an opportunity to make more empty campaign promises. In the past few weeks, the President has met with pro-amnesty supporters, prominent members of the Hispanic community and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“In his effort to shore-up support from his political base, President Obama is choosing to reignite a divisive debate about amnesty for illegal aliens. At the same time, he is refusing to enforce immigration laws he does not like or finds politically inconvenient," said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “Sacrificed in the President's political pandering are the concerns, interests and security of the American people—the true stakeholders of our immigration policy."
(Photo: AP Photo/LM Otero)