National Journal reports
President Obama renewed his call for comprehensive immigration reform in a major address at the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday and attempted to restart the debate on an issue he spoke passionately about as a candidate but has made little headway on during his presidency.
In a speech in El Paso, Texas, Obama argued that his administration has made significant progress on border security over the last two years, answering GOP opponents’ objections to tackling reform legislatively.
The Obama administration has doubled the number of agents patrolling the border and has deported nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants last year—facts that the president said underscore that the conditions are right for a serious debate on overhauling the nation’s immigration policy, administration officials said. The president also said that current immigration laws are keeping innovative thinkers and skilled workers from contributing to the U.S. economy.
But even in making his case to reopen the debate on immigration reform, Obama noted that it would be difficult to get comprehensive immigration reform through a divided Congress.
“We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement,” Obama said. ”All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done. But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I suspect there will be those who will try to move the goal posts one more time.”
In his address, Obama offered broad outlines of what he thought comprehensive reform should look like. He suggested that the U.S. government has to fulfill its responsibility of securing the nation’s borders. Businesses that exploit undocumented workers should be dealt with severely. Illegal workers currently in the country would have to pay fines, taxes, learn English and go to the back of line of those trying to immigrate legally. And the law needs to be reshaped so that it’s easier for foreigners who come to the U.S. for school to stay and work once they earn their degrees.