Barack Obama on Immigration
Junior Senator (IL); President-Elect
Obama believes the time to fix our broken immigration system is now. He is in favor of stronger enforcement at the border and at the workplace. He has properly identified the magnitude of the problem, and said that the undocumented populatio is exploding. Obama recognizes that immigration raids are ineffective, netting only 3,600 arrests in 2006.
Obama's priority is to stop the current way of illegal immigration into the United States, and then deal compassionately and fairly with the illegal immigrants who re already living here. If the flood of new immigrants can be slowed considerably, Obama believes that those currently living here, over time, can be effectively absorbed into the population and the economy.
If we are going to solve the challenges we face, you need a President who will pursue genuine solutions day in and day out. And that is my commitment to you.
We need immigration reform that will secure our borders, and punish employers who exploit immigrant labor; reform that finally brings the 12 million people who are here illegally out of the shadows by requiring them to take steps to become legal citizens We must assert our values and reconcile our principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. That is a priority I will pursue from my very first day.
More broadly, the danger will come if we continue to stand idly by as the gap between Wall Street and Main Street grows, as Washington grows more out of touch, and as America grows more unequal. Because America can only prosper when all Americans prosper--brown, black, white, Asian, and Native American. That’s the idea that lies at the heart of my campaign, and that’s the idea that will lie at the heart of my presidency. Because we are all Americans. Todos somos Americanos. And in this country, we rise and fall together.
Obama needs to be more careful in his use of statistics. If he is going to blame Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh for “ginning up” hate crimes against Hispanics, he needs solid data to back up his allegation. The hate crimes statistics are wildly inaccurate--and a subsequent modified claim provided by his campaign was also off the mark.
Lou Dobbs of CNN has repeatedly made use of flawed statistics, but there is no excuse for resorting to equally flawed data to attack Dobbs and his ilk. Hate crime offenses against Latinos rose from 529 in 2003 to 770 in 2006, a total increase over three years of about 45% [not even closed to double].
A: It is important that everyone learns English and that we have that process of binding ourselves together as a country. Every student should be learning a second language, because when you start getting into a debate about bilingual education, for example, now, I want to make sure that children who are coming out of Spanish-speaking households had the opportunity to learn and are not falling behind. If bilingual education helps them do that, I want to give them the opportunity. But I also want to make sure that English-speaking children are getting foreign languages because this world is becoming more interdependent and part of the process of America’s continued leadership in the world is going to be our capacity to communicate across boundaries, across borders, and that’s something frankly where we’ve fallen behind. Foreign languages is one of those areas that I think has been neglected. I want to put more resources into it.
A: The key is to consult with local communities, whether it’s on the commercial interests or the environmental stakes of creating any kind of barrier. The Bush administration is not real good at listening. I will reverse that policy. There may be areas where it makes sense to have some fencing. Having border patrolled, surveillance, deploying effective technology, that’s going to be the better approach.
A: Before the latest round of immigrants showed up, you had huge unemployment rates among African-American youth. So to suggest somehow that the problem that we’re seeing in inner-city unemployment, for example, is attributable to immigrants is a case of scapegoating that I do not believe in, I do not subscribe to. There is no doubt that we have to get control of our borders. We can’t have hundreds of thousands of people coming over to the US without us having any idea who they are. We have to crack down on those employers that are taking advantage of the situation, hiring folks who cannot complain about worker conditions, who aren’t getting the minimum wage sometimes, or aren’t getting overtime. There are a whole host of reasons why we have not been generating the kinds of jobs that we are generating. We should not use immigration as a tactic to divide.
A: It does not. We’ve got limited resources. When we’ve got millions of citizens that aren’t yet covered, it’s important for us to make sure that they are provided coverag We have an obligation to make sure that children are covered. The only way we’re going to be able to overcome the insurance companies, & the drug companies, & the HMOs who are profiting from the current system is if we are having all these negotiations in a public setting, we are very clear about who’s carrying water for the drug companies and the insurance companies, and who is looking out for the families who are struggling. Those who have health care are looking at such high premiums that effectivel it’s not really health insurance, it’s house insurance. They’re paying premiums, in case they get hit by a car, they don’t lose their home. But they never go to a doctor. We’ve got to have the American people clear about the choices that we face.
A: I think that if they are illegal, then they should not be able to work in this country. That is part of the principle of comprehensive reform, which we’re going to crack down on employers who are hiring them and taking advantage of them. But I also want to give them a pathway, so that they can earn citizenship, earn a legal status, start learning English, pay a significant fine, and go to the back of the line. But they can then stay here and they can have the ability to enforce a minimum wage that they’re paid, make sure the worker safety laws are available, make sure that they can join a union.
A: We do not deputize the American people to do the job that the federal government is supposed to do. So as president, I will make sure that the federal government does what it’s supposed to do, which is to do a better job of closing our borders, have much tougher enforcement standards when it comes to employers, and create a pathway of citizenship for the 12 million people who are already here.
A: No, because there are Spanish-speaking U.S. citizens who may not speak English well, and if they’re seeking help, for example, on some vital health care question, or a senior citizen who emigrated here a long time ago and they’re trying to get their Social Security check, I don’t want them to not be able to get those services.
A: Yes. I am going to be fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, and we shouldn’t pose the question that, somehow, we can’t achieve that. The American people desperately want it; that’s what I’m going to be fighting for as president.
We find different estimates of the number of persons struck by lightning, ranging from 600 to 1,000 people killed or injured by lightning in the US per year. We have no idea how many of those lightning casualties are employers, let alone how many might have hired illegal aliens. What we do know is that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service reports that in the most recent 12-month period on record, the total number of arrests of persons in the “employer supervisory chain” was 91.
OBAMA: I have been a consistent champion of comprehensive immigration reform. And keep in mind that my father came to this country from a small village in Africa because he was looking for opportunity. And so when I see people who are coming across these borders, whether legally or illegally, I know that the motivation is trying to create a better life for their children and their grandchildren. So I was one of the leaders, along with several other senators, in passing comprehensive immigration reform. It failed in the House. That is going to involve some elements of border security because we’ve got to make our borders more secure. We can’t just have hundreds of thousands of people coming into the country without knowing who they are.
A: The federal law is not being enforced not because of failures of local communities, but because the federal government has not done the job that it needs to do.
Q: You would allow the sanctuary cities to exist?
A: What I would do as president is pass comprehensive immigration reform. And controlling our borders but also providing a rational immigration system, which we currently don’t have.
A: We have to make sure that employers are held accountable, because right now employers are taking advantage of undocumented workers. And we’ve got to give a pathway to citizenship. But people have to earn it. They’re going to have to pay a fine. They’ve got to make sure that they’re learning English. They’ve got to go to the back of the line so that they’re not rewarded for having broken the law.
A: What I meant was that, when this issue came up--not driver’s licenses, but comprehensive immigration reform generally--I worked with Kennedy, Durbin, & McCain. It’s a hard political issue. This is not an issue that polls well. But it is the right thing to do. We have to show leadership on the issue. The problems that workers are experiencing generally are not primarily caused by immigration. There is what I said was that we have to stand up for these issues when it’s tough, and that’s what I’ve done. I did it when I was in the state legislature, sponsoring the Illinois version of the DREAM Act, so that children who were brought here through no fault of their own are able to go to college, because we actually want well-educated kids in our country who are able to succeed and become part of this economy and part of the American dream.
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO ON TABLING MOTION:Sen. VITTER: There are so-called sanctuary cities which establish as an official policy of their jurisdiction: We are not going to cooperate with Federal immigration enforcement officials. That is wrong. What is more, it is completely contrary to Federal immigration law. My amendment says: We are going to put some consequence to that defiance of Federal law. We are not going to give them COPS funds. We are going to send those funds, instead, to all of those other jurisdictions which abide by Federal law.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES ON TABLING MOTION:Sen. DURBIN: There are sanctuary cities in about 23 different States across America. What the Vitter amendment will do is to take away the COPS funding from those cities. Police departments will tell you they need the cooperation of everyone to solve crimes and stop crime. If you create fear in the minds of those who are here in an undocumented status that any cooperation with the police will result in their arrest, they will not cooperate and criminals will go free. Let's not use the COPS Program as some sort of threat. If you want to deal with immigration, deal with it responsibly in a comprehensive way. SUPPORTER'S RESPONSE:Sen. VITTER: If folks feel that way, they should come to Congress and change Federal law, not simply defy Federal law. This is another amnesty vote. Are we going to give folks in sanctuary cities amnesty for defying Federal law and refusing to cooperate with Federal immigration officials? LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Motion to Table Agreed to, 58-40
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
If we do not legislate now, we will not legislate later this year when our calendar is crowded with Iraq and appropriations bills. We are then an election year, and it will be pushed over to 2009. Circumstances will not be better then, they will be worse.
A vote against cloture is a vote to kill the bill. A Senator may vote for cloture and then express himself in opposition to the bill by voting against the bill.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
If this bill becomes law, we will see only a 13% reduction in illegal immigration into America, and in the next 20 years we will have another 8.7 million illegals in our country. How can that be reformed? I submit this would be a disaster.
The Congressional telephone systems have shut down because of the mass phone calls Congress is receiving. A decent respect for the views of the American people says let's stop here now. Let's go back to the drawing board and come up with a bill that will work.
The American people get it, and they do have common sense and wisdom on this issue. They know repeating the fundamental mistakes of the 1986 bill, joining a big amnesty with inadequate enforcement, will cause the problem to grow and not diminish. They know promising enforcement after 30 years of broken promises isn't good enough. They know the so-called trigger is a joke because if the trigger is never pulled, the Z visas, the amnesty happens forever.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
Right now, the polling shows that 91% of the people in America want English as an official language, and 76% of Hispanics believe English should be an official language.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
I believe the American people understand in order to succeed in our society, immigrants need to learn English. But the amendment would do a number of things that are problematical. The first is that it is contrary to the provisions of law that exist in many States. For example, in New Mexico, you have in their State Constitution, a provision that says that many of the documents within that State have to be provided in both English and Spanish. The same thing is true for the State of Hawaii. I believe this is a States rights issue, and those constitutions of those States ought to be respected. I do not believe it is a matter we ought to be imposing here from Washington DC.
Also, this amendment would undo an executive order conceived by President Bill Clinton and implemented by President George Bush. Both recognized it is important that people who have limited English proficiency receive the kinds of services so they can understand what is going on in terms of the interface between the Government and themselves.
Proponents support voting YES because:
It is obvious there is no more defining issue in our Nation today than stopping illegal immigration. The most basic obligation of any government is to secure the Nation's borders. One issue in which there appears to be a consensus between the Senate and the House is on the issue of building a secure fence. So rather than wait until comprehensive legislation is enacted, we should move forward on targeted legislation which is effective and meaningful. The legislation today provides over 700 miles of Within 18 months, achieves operational control over U.S. land and maritime borders, including:
Proponents support voting YES because:
It is obvious there is no more defining issue in our Nation today than stopping illegal immigration. The most basic obligation of any government is to secure the Nation's borders. One issue in which there appears to be a consensus between the Senate and the House is on the issue of building a secure fence. So rather than wait until comprehensive legislation is enacted, we should move forward on targeted legislation which is effective and meaningful. The legislation today provides over 700 miles of
To reduce document fraud, prevent identity theft, and preserve the integrity of the Social Security system, by ensuring that persons who receive an adjustment of status under this bill are not able to receive Social Security benefits as a result of unlawful activity.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, an alien having nonimmigrant status is ineligible for and may not apply for adjustment of status.''
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform legislation is designed to fix our Nation's broken immigration system. While in previous years we worked independently on immigration reform legislation, we are coming together today to introduce what we believe is groundbreaking, comprehensive legislation. Over a year ago, the President laid out a framework for what comprehensive immigration reform should look like. We have used the President's framework to craft this package.
The simple fact is that America's immigration system is broken. Recent vigilante activities along the southwestern border have shown that the current situation is not sustainable. Americans are frustrated with our lack of border security and our inability to control illegal immigration.
Make no mistake, this is not an amnesty bill. We are not here to reward law-breakers, and any accusations to the contrary are patently untrue. This bill recognizes the problems inherent in the current system and provides a logical and effective means to address these problems. It would be impossible to identify and round up all 10 to 11 million of the current undocumented, and if we did, it would ground our Nation's economy to a halt. These millions of people are working. Aliens will not come forward to simply "report and deport." We have a national interest in identifying these individuals, incentivizing them to come forward out of the shadows, go through security background checks, pay back taxes, pay penalties for breaking the law, learn to speak English, and regularize their status. Anyone who thinks this goal can be achieved without providing an eventual path to a permanent legal status is not serious about solving this problem.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on the Judiciary; never came to a vote. [The famous McCain-Kennedy legislation which DID come to a vote was the 2007 version of this bill].
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: We have to ensure that communities where American unemployment rates are high will not experience unnecessary competition from guest workers. So to that end, this amendment strengthens the prevailing wage & freezes the guest worker program in communities with unemployment rates for low-skilled workers of 9% or greater.
This amendment would establish a true prevailing wage for all occupations to ensure that guest workers are paid a wage that does not lower American wages. The [underlying bill S.2611] requires that employers advertise jobs to American workers at a prevailing wage before offering that job to a guest worker. And it requires that employers pay guest workers a prevailing wage. But the bill, currently, without the amendment, does not clarify how to calculate the prevailing wage for workers not covered by a collective bargaining agreement. That leaves most jobs and most workers unprotected.
My amendment fixes that. It directs the employer to use Department of Labor data to calculate a prevailing wage in those cases in which a collective bargaining agreement does not apply. That would mean an employer would have to make an offer at an average wage across comparable employers instead of just an average wage that she or he is willing to pay.
The amendment also would establish stronger prohibitions on the guest worker program in high unemployment areas. The bill currently bars use of the program if the unemployment rate for low-skilled workers in a metropolitan area averages more than 11%. Our amendment would lower that unemployment rate to 9% of workers unemployed with a high school diploma or less. There is no reason any community with large pockets of unemployed Americans needs guest workers.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To establish a grant program to provide financial assistance to States and local governments for the costs of providing health care and educational services to noncitizens, and to provide additional funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. CLINTON: Immigration is a Federal responsibility. For too long the Federal Government has neglected its duty. My amendment addresses one of the clearest examples of this neglect because our failed national immigration policy has left our State and local governments to bear the brunt of the cost of immigration. Our schools, our hospitals, our other State and local services are being strained.
This amendment does several things. It helps finally provide adequate support for State and local governments. How? Well, it not only appropriates the SCAAP funding to our States, but it establishes a program that provides financial assistance to State and local governments for the cost of health and educational services related to immigration. Money is allocated to our States in accordance with a funding formula based on the size and recent growth of the State's noncitizen population. The State must then pass the funds on to local governments and other entities that need the money for reimbursement.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Rollcall vote #133; lost 43-52.
OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 USBC scores as follows:
U.S. Border Control, founded in 1988, is a non-profit, tax-exempt, citizen's lobby. USBC is dedicated to ending illegal immigration by securing our nation's borders and reforming our immigration policies. USBC [works with] Congressmen to stop amnesty; seal our borders against terrorism and illegal immigration; and, preserve our nation's language, culture and American way of life for future generations.
Our organization accepts no financial support from any branch of government. All our support comes from concerned citizens who appreciate the work we are doing to seal our borders against drugs, disease, illegal migration and terrorism and wish to preserve our nation's language, culture and heritage for the next generations.
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Newly elected in 2008 & seated in 2009:
Newly appointed in 2009;
special election in 2010:
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Up for 6-year term in 2010:
(13 Democrats; 15 Republicans)
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