President Barack Obama announced in a speech on Thursday, November 20, the specifics of a plan that will allow up to five million undocumented migrants, or people who entered the country illegally, to stay in the United States. Since he took office in 2008, immigration is an issue Obama has focused on for the country. Thursday’s speech articulated his plans and hopes for fixing the American immigration system in a way he believes is fair and equal. “We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration,” said Obama in his speech. “We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.”
Call to Action
The president announced his plan in three parts. The first focuses on devoting more resources to border enforcement. This, Obama hopes, will help slow the amount of illegal entry into the country, and help speed up the return of those who do cross back over the U.S.-Mexico border.
Obama’s second goal could have an economic impact. “I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed,” he said. Immigrants who have been working illegally may now search for higher paying jobs, leading to a greater wage competition.
The third part of the plan called for fair and responsible action to deal with the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants that already live in the United States. Undocumented people who have been living in the United States for at least five years can avoid deportation for three years if they pay back taxes and pass a background check. “You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” Obama said.
Commitment to Safety
Obama’s plan was not delivered without opposition. House Speaker John Boehner is arguing that President Obama’s moves to defer deportations will make illegal immigration worse. “The action by the president yesterday will only encourage more people to come here illegally and put their lives at risk,” said Boehner.
The president made clear in his speech that, in addition to allowing immigrants to remain in the country after a certain amount of time, he would also focus on safety. His plan will also focus on deporting immigrants who recently crossed the border illegally, are suspected of gang activity, terrorism, or other threats to public safety.
Above all, Obama emphasized immigration as a shared commitment between all Americans. “My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants,” he said. “We were strangers once, too.”