Obama to Push Immigration Reform in Texas Speech

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Protestors participate in a 'March For America' demonstration calling for immigration reform near the Washington Monument March 21, 2010 in Washington, DC. Protestors participate in a 'March For America' demonstration calling for immigration reform near the Washington Monument March 21, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

President Obama first made his case for immigration reform on the national stage during the 2008 campaign. Many advocates say they have yet to see that fight play out, but on Tuesday, the president will give a speech to college students and faculty from the University of Texas in El Paso to talk about reform, once again.

Since the bold words of "reform" in his election campaign, the president's actual position has hovered somewhere in the middle and has not led to any significant legislation. As the White House posted on its blog: "The President cannot fix our broken system on his own." Senior administration officials say the trip is a "call to action" and that the president is committed to comprehensive immigration reform.

The midterm elections in 2010 were a big loss for Democrats, so now bipartisan support is crucial for the passage of any immigration reform legislation. In his speech tomorrow, senior administration officials say this is what he'll be pushing for in El Paso.

Tuesday's speech is the latest event in a string of efforts at outreach to the Latino community - including White House blog posts in Spanish - to remind the public that he's still aiming for comprehensive reform. By choosing El Paso, Obama is putting himself right on the U.S.-Mexico border where the national debate on immigration is very localized. Ciudad Juarez, where thousands of people have been murdered in the last few years due to trafficking and drug violence, is a scant three miles away. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will travel to the border with the president to see the border security operation firsthand.

There have been signs in the last several weeks that Obama is prioritizing the immigration issue. He participated in a town hall meeting in the capital, hosted by the Spanish news network Univision, where he talked about education. He spoke at Florida's Miami-Dade College and released a White House report on Latino education, which documented the finding that Latinos have the lowest education attainment level as a group in the U.S. He hosted a meeting with Latino leaders on May 5th at the White House, during which he said the DREAM Act should become law and that we need to "address the status" of undocumented workers as well as dealing with border security and law enforcement. Now he's heading to Texas, to a city right near the border where there is a high Latino population as well as a high stakes investment in border security — two components that aren't always in agreement.

You could say the president is on a mission to make good on his campaign promise. You could also call it a political mission. It's campaign season again after all, and folks are waiting to hear what's next. Obama has said time and time again, "We are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants," but his administration and Congress have not yet been able to weave those two ideas together into successful legislation.

Senior administration officials say comprehensive immigration reform means both border security and legislation, not one or the other, a point the president will make again in his speech on Tuesday. Officials say the president will emphasize the benefits immigration reform has on economic growth and entrepreneurship as well as attempting to garner support for the cause, encouraging other leaders to step forward on the issue and push for bipartisan consensus in Congress. The president has several planned meetings with community leaders, labor and law enforcement around the country to discuss comprehensive reform in the upcoming months. Officials say he will release a blueprint on Tuesday of what he'd like to accomplish.

Tuesday's speech will take place at Chamizal National Memorial - a monument to the peaceful settlement of a border dispute between the U.S. and Mexico over territory surrounding the Rio Grande river. It will mark the first presidential visit to the memorial since its inception in 1963. The event is closed to the public, but the University of Texas in El Paso received 500 tickets for students and faculty. First come, first serve. (The tickets were snatched up in 45 minutes.)

Here are a few topics the president is likely to discuss:


The DREAM Act (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) was a bipartisan bill when it was introduced in 2007 with Obama's support (though, immigration advocates have been fighting for it for a decade), but in December of last year after passing the House, it stalled in the Senate and failed to pass before the new year. The controversial legislation would allow undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. under the age of 16 to apply for legal status if they fulfill several requirements, including continuous presence in the U.S. for no less than five years and showing "good moral character."

Many Republicans, including some that supported the DREAM Act when it was introduced, say they will not pass this bill until border security is addressed. Texas Gov. Rick Perry agrees that border security needs to be a priority in any comprehensive immigration reform.

During his speech at Miami-Dade Community College in Miami last week, Obama promised he would continue to push for a path to citizenship for undocumented students, while they chanted, "Education, not deportation!"

Border Security

The issue of border security has heated up since Arizona passed SB 1070 last year, a law directing state law enforcement to be more aggressive in apprehending undocumented immigrants. A federal judge has since struck down many of the law's provisions but it remains a rally cry for advocates on both sides of the debate.

In August of last year, President Obama signed a bill granting $600 million more for border security on the U.S.-Mexico border, but despite the GOP's demand for this very thing, the same amount was on the chopping block again in their budget proposal this year. The money was intended to provide more security and communications equipment and more border patrol agents, including the deployment of the National Guard. The Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano called it a "step forward" at the time, but this funding is due to expire in June. Senior administration officials say they intend to continue national guard deployment along the border. They don't yet have a time line for the deployment extension, but plan to finalize plans as soon as possible.

Officials also say the border is the safest its been in U.S. history, citing the increase in border control agents, screening of southbound rail and vehicle traffic and 649 miles of fencing.

The president has mentioned "border security" over the past few weeks in his remarks about what comprehensive immigration reform would look like, but exactly what he means by this is not yet clear. In his comments to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on May 5th, the president said, "I strongly believe that we've got to fix this broken system so that it meets the needs of our 21st century economy and our security needs. I want to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, to enforce our laws and also to address the status of millions of undocumented workers."

Undocumented workers

There are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today so "addressing" this number in any way is an inevitable challenge.

The Obama administration has gone after companies who are suspected of hiring undocumented workers by using E-Verify, an electronic system that companies use to check their employees immigration status and social security numbers. Previously, this electronic program was voluntary. Its implementation has been shunned by immigration advocates saying E-Verify won't work unless there is a complete overhaul of the immigration system.

On the other hand, the president supports the DREAM Act but it's not clear what kind of guest worker and visa reform the president would support for immigrant workers. Senior officials say what doesn't make sense is training and educating job creators and entrepreneurs and then forcing them to return to their country of origin to compete against us. They say there is a benefit to having more people legally part of our system, creating jobs and paying taxes.

The GOP generally opposes discussion about a "path to citizenship" as it seems too close to amnesty, something most of them vehemently oppose.



More in:

News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [4]


Your right indiana partner. Texas wants the illegals out. House bills now are being passed albeit slowly and its going to be done regardless of the lame administration and latino lobbys. Lets keep networking the revolution, borders language culture. Go tea party.

May. 12 2011 02:03 AM
Brittanicus from Indianapolis, IN

Taxpayer must take their Politicians to task whether federal or State, by calling their offices as soon as possible at Senate—202-224–3121/ House—202-225–3121 or locate these lawmakers in your phone directory blue pages. The TEA PARTY will nurture new candidates for the 2012 Election. The TEA PARTY will give no leeway to any form of Immigration Reform—AMNESTY. The TEA PARTY is determined stop the drain of taxpayers’ money, which includes unfair taxes to support the instant citizenship of babies, through entering America illegally to foster welfare advantage. The TEA PARTY will rescind Chain Migration, which is a very large billion dollar expenditure, if sponsors don’t honor financial support for immediate family members. Legislators have a duty to mandate E-Verify, Secure Communities and 287G and make it impossible for illegal foreigners to get employment, or even get a handhold in America.

The TEA PARTY will dismantle Sanctuary City policies, the educational dream Act and unseat all pro-illegal immigrant Lawmakers, Governors, Mayors and those involved in this travesty. The second revolution has begun by THE TEA PARTY that will condemn any more free giveaways to illegal aliens. The American People are the Tea Party, comprising of every legal nationality and race. You should join this splinter party from the wilting RINO Republicans, who with Democrats are eroding this countries greatness. Highly skilled workers should be given immediate special entry visas, who have positions in reputable companies; these top of the cream individuals, will cost taxpayers nothing. Currently however, some plausible 20 million foreign aliens are indigent and replaced by American-legal resident low educated, minimum wage labor who should receive absolute priority.

Attn: Donate to Arizona's border fence, by just typing in to Google: Arizona Governor Brewer. There must be further mandatory oversight of one election process, as there was rampant fraud in 3 States and the administration is unconcerned about future voting by illegal aliens.

May. 10 2011 06:44 PM
Brittanicus from Indianapolis, IN


After listening to Senator Lamar Smith (R-TX) today and with the backing of the huge populace of the TEA PARTY membership, President Obama has little chance if any at all, at passing immigration Reform? Polls show that nearly 70% of Americans oppose amnesty for all illegal aliens and that generations of legal Hispanics are less likely to reelect President Obama if he supports amnesty that is detrimental to their jobs. In the years following the 1986 Immigration Control and Reform bill, the cost afterwords to taxpayers 78 Billion dollars, according to the (CIS) Center for Immigration Studies. Somebody needs to ask the question, “What will the cost be 35 years later? Twice that amount? Whatever that amount, its more than the US can afford?

After the 1986 amnesty, illegal immigration increased significantly. The US Census Bureau 2000 data indicate that 700,000 to 800,000 illegal aliens have settled in the U.S. each year, with between 13 to 20 million illegal aliens now currently living in the United States The amnesty of 1986 was supposed to be a accepted just “One time” with no more in the future, but it was a failure with considerable fraud attached to it.

Yet since 1986, Congress passed a total of 7 amnesties for illegal aliens, which includes the 1986 Amnesty. 2. Including Section 245(i) The Amnesty of 1994 as a temporary progressive amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens; 3. Section 245(i) The Extension Amnesty of 1997, which was an extension of the progressive amnesty created in 1994; 4. The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty of 1997; 5. The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA) of 1998, an amnesty for 125,000 illegal's. 6. The Late Amnesty of 2000, was an amnesty for approximately 400,000 illegal aliens claiming they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty; 6. The LIFE Act Amnesty of 2000 was a restoration of the progressive Section of 245(i) amnesty to an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens.

May. 10 2011 06:43 PM

How complex is it if thousands of people jump the fence at the White House? Are they just undocumented new tenants? Should they be arrested or should they be offered a path to occupying some of the bedrooms?

Seriously, president Obama.... the solution here is really too difficult for you to comprehend?

May. 10 2011 06:00 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by