Immigration Reform

International Herald Tribune, January 31, 2013 | Go to article overview

Immigration Reform


President Obama offered his own ideas for reform, with a citizenship path at the center of his proposal.

President Obama hit the right notes when he made the case for overhauling the immigration system in a speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday. He spoke one day after a bipartisan group of eight senators released their own blueprint for a comprehensive reform bill, and the back-to-back events gave the odd sensation -- rare during the Obama administration -- of seeing Congress and the White House moving in more or less the same direction.

"Now is the time," Mr. Obama said, noting that Washington was having a bipartisan moment on immigration not seen since George W. Bush was president and Senator Edward Kennedy was leading the push for reform. The president restated the familiar and still-sound principles behind an immigration overhaul: a more secure border and workplace; legalization for 11 million undocumented immigrants; and a modernized system of legal immigration that eliminates backlogs, reunites families and has enough visas for valued workers and entrepreneurs. He also gave a helpful reminder that it's wrong to cast immigration as a battle of "them" and "us." A false distinction, he said, because most of us used to be "them."

The fiercest point of debate and the biggest obstacle to a bill, of course, is whether and how to get "them" -- that is, 11 million undocumented immigrants -- out of the shadows, free to live and work in the United States legally and to become citizens if they wish. "It should be clear at the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship," Mr. Obama said, stressing the "is." An objectionable part of the senators' blueprint is that it refuses to put undocumented immigrants on a path to permanent residency and citizenship until a host of border-enforcement actions is completed first. …

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