Photo courtesy of Latin American Studies
Yesterday, President Obama delivered his first major speech on immigration reform.
A year and a half ago, when he took office, President Obama was poised to act on an agenda of change - and to make good on a promise to reform the broken immigration system within the first year. That promise has not been kept.
In fact, the situation now is worse than it was then. Deportations are on the rise, immigration courts are overburdened, and families live in constant fear of being separated. In the absence of bold leadership from President Obama and swift action by Congress, states have taken matters into their own hands with dire consequences.
This speech was notable as much for its omissions as its content. We did not hear the president setting a timetable for drafting and passing a bill. We did not hear a commitment to protecting vulnerable populations during immigration enforcement actions. We did not hear any mention of the anticipated Department of Justice lawsuit against Arizona's new law.
What did we hear? A compassionate description of the value of immigrants' contributions to U.S. society and economy, an outline of the major components of immigration reform, and accusations that the minority party has impeded the creation of a viable bill. In short, nothing new.
President Obama did call the new Arizona law "ill conceived" and "divisive," and he acknowledged that we can't "solve the problem only with fences and border patrols." Still, at the moment the administration is doing just that. At FCNL, we are deeply disappointed with the president's decision to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border.
As the New York Times editorializes, "Mr. Obama appealed to middle of the debate, to Americans who crave lawfulness but reject the cruelty symbolized by Arizona’s new law." If lawfulness is the goal, then we need Congress to provide a federal solution - and soon.
Missed the speech? You can watch the video here or read the transcript here.
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both offer coverage of the speech.