Obama tried to carve out middle ground on immigration reform in a speech at American University’s School of International Service Thursday. Light on specific policy recommendations, the President rejected appeals for blanket amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the country while also emphasizing the need to amend the path to citizenship. He did embrace the DREAM Act, proposed legislation to ease legal immigration for students.
He also laid the blame for the country’s lack of effective legislation on the issue squarely at the feet of Republicans. The White House, the public and the majority of Democrats want reform, he said, but Republican legislators have failed to come forward.
“Without bipartisan support, we cannot solve this problem,” Obama said. “Reform … cannot pass without Republican votes.”
Obama said comprehensive reform cannot wait until borders are secured — a common Republican argument for delaying legislation.
“Our borders are just too vast for us to be able to solve the problem only with fences andpatrols,” he said.
The Uptake posted a video of the speech:
Any comprehensive reform policy should require undocumented immigrants to register, learn English, pay taxes and fines, and admit they broke the law, Obama said.
“Ultimately our nation has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship,” he said. “No matter how decent they are … the 11 million people who broke these laws should be held accountable.”
Businesses that employ and exploit undocumented immigrants should be penalized, he said.