Barack Obama on Immigration

Democratic incumbent President; IL Senator (2004-2008)


OpEd: Executive action ignores Congress & the Constitution

Q: The president says that he's using his prosecutorial discretion to go after the bad guys, not other immigrants:

(VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who's working hard to provide for her kids. We'll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

Q: Senator, what's wrong with that policy?

CRUZ: Well, the notion that this is just prosecutorial discretion is simply nonsense. The Constitution gives Congress the authority to establish our immigration laws. What the president announced is a wholesale refusal to enforce our immigration laws. I actually can't put it any better than "Saturday Night Live" put it, where they reprised the old "Schoolhouse Rock", you remember how a bill becomes a law? SNL literally had the president pushing the bills down the steps of the Capitol, because we no longer need the steps in the Constitution for how we pass laws, because the president now is claiming unilateral authority.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2014 interview with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) , Nov 23, 2014

Executive action on immigration is well-precedented

Q: The president says there is a long precedent for chief executives to take executive action on immigration:

(VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The actions I'm taking are not only lawful, they're the kinds of actions taking by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century.

Q: Senator, Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 took executive action to grant legal status to about a million and a half people who are in this country illegally. What's the difference?

CRUZ: The difference between Reagan and Bush is both of them were working with Congress and implementing congressional statutes. Congress can change the immigration law and the president can put congressional will into effect. The difference here is this is not a president who wants to work with Congress. Rather, this is a president who is openly defying Congress. [This] stops having a constitutional system of checks & balances, and we move just to unilateral executive authority. It's the power of a monarch

Source: Fox News Sunday 2014 interview with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) , Nov 23, 2014

Common sense executive action: Deport felons, not families

The President's Immigration Accountability Executive Actions will help secure the border, hold nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants accountable, and ensure that everyone plays by the same rules. These executive actions crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay their fair share of taxes as they register to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation. These are common sense steps, but only Congress can finish the job. The President will continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive, bipartisan bill--like the one passed by the Senate more than a year ago--that can replace these actions and fix the whole system.
Source: White House press release, "Immigration Accountability" , Nov 20, 2014

Deferred-action: Let under-age illegals remain lawfully

When Pres. Obama issued his deferred-action policy, hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought illegally into the US became eligible to remain lawfully. For the first time those young people were able to take a tenuous step toward the only status many of them have ever known: Americans.

For Dulce Vazquez, 21, and her sister, Bibiana, 19, who were profiled by the "Arizona Republic," [whose parents brought them to the US illegally when they were under-age,] the policy was a dream come true

Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p.156-159 , Mar 5, 2013

Since 2008, deported a record number of illegal immigrants

Obama alienated many Hispanics by breaking his 2008 campaign promise to lead the charge for comprehensive immigration reform and, especially, by deporting a record number of illegal immigrants. But [in 2012] Obama reversed course, announcing his policy to allow young people who were brought here illegally to remain. The policy was enormously popular, and it appeared to demonstrate presidential leadership, energize Hispanic voters, and paint Republicans into a corner from which they could not escape.
Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p.202 , Mar 5, 2013

Comprehensive immigration reform including legal immigration

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made--putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship--a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

Source: 2013 State of the Union Address , Feb 12, 2013

I promised reform in 2009, but economy took priority

Q: On May 28, 2008, you made the "Obama promise:"--quoting you: "I can guarantee that we will have, in the first year, an immigration bill that I strongly support." I emphasize "the first year." Will you acknowledge that you did not keep your promise?

Source: Obama-Romney interviews by Univision Noticias (Spanish News) , Sep 19, 2012

Focus deportations on criminals and those without US roots

Q: You have been the President who has made the largest number of deportations in history--more than 1.5 million so far. Since you've granted deferred action [for students], would you consider doing something similar to other groups of non-criminal illegal immigrants such as the parents of US-born children?

A: We focus our enforcement on people who genuinely pose a threat to our communities, not to hardworking families who are minding their own business and oftentimes have members of their family who are US citizens. We don't have the capacity to enforce across the board. So more than half of our enforcement now is directed at people with criminal records. Of the remaining half, about 2/3 are people who are apprehended close to the border, so these are not people who have longstanding roots in our community. And what we've tried to do then is focus our attention on real threats, and make sure that families are not the targets.

Source: Obama-Romney interviews by Univision Noticias (Spanish News) , Sep 19, 2012

FactCheck: Fewer border crossings mostly due to economy

In his State of the Union speech, Obama took credit for an unprecedented level of border patrol guards along the Mexican border and added, "there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office."

Actually, Obama has increased the Border Patrol only modestly since it nearly doubled under George W. Bush, when the number grew from 11,264 in 2005 to 20,119 in Oct. 2008. Under Obama, the number went up to 21,444 by 2011. About 85% of those guards are stationed along the southern border.

It's true that arrests for illegal border crossings have decreased since Obama took office--from 556,041 in fiscal 2009 to 340,252 in fiscal 2011. (Those are nationwide figures, although more than 98% of arrests occur along the Mexican border, according to a Congressional Research Service report.) But immigration experts have said the U.S. economy was the number one reason illegal immigration has slowed.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2012 State of the Union speech , Jan 24, 2012

Arizona's S.B.1070 creates misguided patchwork system

Obama said that Arizona's SB1070 undermined "basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans," and he considered it too important to ignore. He decided to meet with Brewer in person at the White House.

The president disagreed with the governor so completely on illegal immigration that he even disputed her facts. The immigration crisis had not become worse, he believed; it had actually improved. The number of illegal immigrants had dropped from 12 million to 11 million in the last three years. Obama had tripled the number of intelligence analysts on the border and committed 1,200 National Guard troops to the cause. Deportations had increased under his watch.

Brewer met with Obama in the Oval Office. Obama said that state immigration laws such as SB1070 would create a "patchwork system" and undercut overarching federal regulations.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in district court, asking a judge to declare SB1070 "invalid" and insisting that it "be struck down."

Source: Ten Letters, by Eli Saslow, p.151-153 , Oct 11, 2011

Sent unmanned aircraft drones to monitor Mexican border

[The Arizona anti-immigration law] SB1070 was scheduled to become law in 16 hours when a district judge finally announced her last-minute ruling on the lawsuit brought by Obama and the Justice Department: Much of the bill was unconstitutional.

Inside the White House, Obama and his aides conceded that they expected a long battle, predicting that the fate of SB1070 might eventually rest with the Supreme Court. What at first had seemed like a hard-earned immigration victory for Obama began to look more like a defeat as summer turned to fall. The president tried to appease both conservatives and liberals with immigration policies that instead satisfied nobody. He sent unmanned aircraft drones to monitor the border and deported record numbers of illegal immigrants. Such attempts to secure the border further enraged Hispanic voters who already felt like Obama had failed them.

Source: Ten Letters, by Eli Saslow, p.162-163 , Oct 11, 2011

Comprehensive reform can't be done by president alone

To the Spanish-language newspaper "La Opinion", Obama defended his work on immigration: "In some ways there is an unrealistic notion of what I can get done by myself." On Oct. 25, Obama agreed to an in-studio radio interview with Eddie Sotelo, the host of a popular program on an L.A. Spanish station.

The interview deteriorated; Obama remained mostly on the defensive. "If the majority of Democrats support this issue, if I as president support this issue.then the question I have is why are we spending time talking about us instead of spending time focusing on getting Republicans to do what's right?" he asked. As the interview continued, he seemed more than ever like a president beleaguered by all that he could not control:

Source: Ten Letters, by Eli Saslow, p.164-165 , Oct 11, 2011

Stop expelling talented undocumented workers

I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.
Source: 2011 State of the Union speech , Jan 25, 2011

Send 1,200 National Guard troops to southern border

President Obama is not trying to do just enough to create the impression of some activity to address border security. He announced that he will send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border, as a temporary measure, until an additional 1,000 Border Patrol agents are on the job. This has generated headlines--and I suppose it is better than the alternative of no additional troops or officers--but it is really a drop in the bucket. Consider that of those 1,200 troops, only 286 were assigned to Texas. The southern border of the United States stretches 1,954 miles, and 1,255 of them are in Texas. We have 60 percent of the border, yet less than 25 percent of the resources were given to Texas to deal with it. In the face of the soaring violence infesting our border communities as a result of the drug trade, this paltry effort is simply inviting more problems.
Source: Fed Up!, by Gov. Rick Perry, p.124 , Nov 15, 2010

Anti-immigrant bitterness stems from joblessness

On April 11, less than two weeks before the PA primary, the Huffington Post put online audio of Obama speaking at a private fund-raiser in San Francisco. "You go into some of the small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for twenty-five years and nothing's replaced them," Obama told the group. "So it's not surprising then that [people there] get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Obama's "bitter/cling" comments seemed to be a heavenly gift to the Clintons. They billboarded a simple message about Obama that Hillary and Bill already believed was true: that he was, at bottom, a helpless and hopeless elitist. "America needs a president that will stand up for them, not a president that looks down on them," she said.

Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p.240-241 , Jan 11, 2010

Crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants

Obama wants to remove incentives for illegals to enter the country by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Obama has championed a proposal to create a system so employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the US.

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 population is exploding. Obama recognizes that immigration raids are ineffective, netting only 3,600 arrests in 2006.

Obama's priority is to stop the current wave 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.

Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p.120-121 , Jul 1, 2008

America has nothing to fear from today’s immigrants

For all the noise and anger that too often surrounds the immigration debate, America has nothing to fear from today’s immigrants. They have come here for the same reason that families have always come here--for the hope that in America, they could build a better life for themselves and their families. Like the waves of immigrants that came before them and the Hispanic Americans whose families have been here for generations, the recent arrival of Latino immigrants will only enrich our country.
Source: Obama & McCain back-to-back speeches at NALEO , Jun 28, 2008

We need comprehensive reform, like McCain used to support

Senator McCain used to offer change on immigration. He was a champion of comprehensive reform, and I admired him for it. But when he was running for his party’s nomination, he walked away from that commitment and he’s said he wouldn’t even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote.

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.

Source: Obama & McCain back-to-back speeches at NALEO , Jun 28, 2008

Recognize the humanity of immigrants: Todos somos Americanos

Ultimately, the danger to the American way of life is not that we will be overrun by those who do not look like us or do not yet speak our language. The danger will come if we fail to recognize the humanity of [immigrants]--if we withhold from them the opportunities we take for granted, and create a servant class in our midst.

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.

Source: Obama & McCain back-to-back speeches at NALEO , Jun 28, 2008

GovWatch: Anti-immigrants fuel xenophobia, but 45% increase

Barack Obama said at a Palm Beach fundraiser on May 22, “A certain segment has basically been feeding a kind of xenophobia. There’s a reason why hate crimes against Hispanic people doubled last year. If you have people like Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh ginning things up, it’s not surprising that would happen.”

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].

Source: GovWatch on 2008: Washington Post analysis , Jun 4, 2008

Encourage every student to learn a second language

Q: Is there any down side to the US becoming a bilingual nation?

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.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Need to look at different aspects of immigration reform

We need stronger border security. We are cracking down on employers that are taking advantage of undocumented workers because they can’t complain if they’re not paid a minimum wage and not getting overtime. Worker safety laws are not being observed. We have to make sure that doesn’t lead to people with Spanish surnames being discriminated against. We have to require that undocumented workers go to the back of the line, so that they are not getting citizenship before those who have applied legally.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Have border patrolled, surveillance, and deploy technology

Q: Do you think your vote on the border fence or the implementation of it was wrong?

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.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Deporting 12 million people is ridiculous and impractical

The American people want fairness, want justice. They recognize that the idea that you’re going to deport 12 million people is ridiculous, that we’re not going to be devoting all our law enforcement resources to sending people back. But what they do also want is some order to the process. We’re not going to be able to do these things in isolation. We’re not going to be able to deal with the 12 million people who are living in the shadows and give them a way of getting out of the shadows if we don’t also deal with the problem of this constant influx of undocumented workers. That’s why comprehensive reform is so important. Something that we can do immediately that is very important is to pass the Dream Act, which allows children who through no fault of their own are here but have essentially grown up as Americans, allow them the opportunity for higher education. I do not want two classes of citizens in this country. I want everybody to prosper. That’s going to be a top priority.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Immigration raids are ineffective

Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 38-39 , Feb 2, 2008

Immigrants are scapegoats for high unemployment rates

Q: How do you address high unemployment & declining wages in the African-American community related to the flood of immigrant labor?

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.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday , Jan 31, 2008

Illegals shouldn’t work; but should have path to citizenship

Q: Under an Obama administration, what rights do immigrants have if they’re working without proper authorization come January 2009?

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.

Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR , Dec 4, 2007

Don’t deputize Americans to turn in illegal immigrants

Q: Would you expect Americans to turn in illegal immigrants when they come across them?

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.

Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR , Dec 4, 2007

OK to provide government services in Spanish

Q: Will you remove the question about what language we speak when we call any U.S. government office?

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.

Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR , Dec 4, 2007

Comprehensive solution includes employers & borders

What we have to do is create a comprehensive solution to the problem. As president I will make sure that we finally have the kind of border security that we need. Employers have to be held accountable. When we do those things, we can take the illegal aliens who are here, get them out of the shadows, make sure that they are subject to a stiff penalty, make sure that they’re learning English and go to the back of the line so they’re not getting an advantage over people who came here legally.
Source: 2007 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada , Nov 15, 2007

Undocumented workers come here to work, not to drive

When I was a state senator in Illinois, I voted to require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance to protect public safety. That was my intention. The problem we have here is not driver’s licenses. Undocumented workers do not come here to drive. They’re here to work. Instead of being distracting by what has now become a wedge issue, let’s focus on actually solving the problem that this administration, the Bush administration, had done nothing about it.
Source: 2007 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada , Nov 15, 2007

Support granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants

Q: In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, do you support driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants?

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.

Source: 2007 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada , Nov 15, 2007

FactCheck: Lightning IS likelier than employer prosecution

One Obama claim that we wondered about turned out to be true, or at least close enough. Obama said, “An employer has more of a chance of getting hit by lightning than being prosecuted for hiring an undocumented worker. That has to change.”

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.

Source: FactCheck on 2007 Democratic debate in Las Vegas , Nov 15, 2007

Immigration system is broken for legal immigrants

We’ve got to fix a broken immigration system not just for the undocumented but for legal immigrants. Because the backlogs are horrendous, the fees have been increased and doubled and tripled, and as a consequence more and more people are having difficulty just trying to reunify their families even if they’re going through the legal pathways, and that puts more pressure on people to go into the illegal system. That is something we’re going to try to pass.
Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on Univision in Spanish , Sep 9, 2007

Reform must include more border security, and border wall

Q: None of the 9/11 terrorists entered the US through the Mexican border. Why build a wall there in the name of national security? I would like to mention that Senator Obama, Clinton and Dodd voted in favor of the wall.

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.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on Univision in Spanish , Sep 9, 2007

Sanctuary cities show that feds are not enforcing law

Q: Would you allow “sanctuary cities” to ignore the federal law & provide sanctuary to immigrants?

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.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College , Sep 6, 2007

Pathway to citizenship, but people have to earn it

Q: Are you going to create a path to the citizenship for undocumented workers?

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.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum , Aug 8, 2007

Let’s be a nation of laws AND a nation of immigrants

I think it’s possible for us to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. That’s what we’ve always been and that’s what we have to continue to be. And that’s why I’ve worked in the Senate and will work hard as president to make sure that we’ve got comprehensive immigration reform that has strong border security. We need to make sure that it’s orderly, that we don’t have thousands of people pouring over our borders or overstaying our visas.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum , Aug 8, 2007

Do a better job patrolling the Canadian and Mexican borders

We should certainly do a better job patrolling the borders in Canada. This recent case with the young lawyer who had tuberculosis being waved through by a border guard because, he said, he looked okay is a problem. We’ve got to strengthen our border patrols on both sides. We are a country of immigrants. We’re also a country of laws. And the question is, how do we balance that appropriately? I am hopeful that we can solve this problem constructively.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

Give immigrants who are here a rigorous path to citizenship

We want to have a situation in which those who are already here, are playing by the rules, are willing to pay a fine and go through a rigorous process should have a pathway to legalization. Most Americans will support that if they have some sense that the border is also being secured. What they don’t want is a situation in which there is a pathway to legalization and you’ve got another several hundred thousand of folks coming in every year. That is a central position we should be able to arrive at.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

Barack Obama on Immigrant Benefits

Kids who think of themselves as Americans--they should stay

ROMNEY: The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids should have a pathway to become a permanent resident. Military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway.

OBAMA: If we're going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that's what we've done. For young people who come here, brought here often times by their parents--had gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag; think of this as their country; understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers--we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship. And that's what I've done administratively. Now, Governor Romney just said, you know he wants to help those young people too, but during the Republican primary, he said, "I will veto the DREAM Act".

Source: Second Obama-Romney 2012 debate , Oct 16, 2012

Still supports comprehensive reform and the DREAM Act

Q: You promised comprehensive immigration reform in your first year. And you didn't keep that promise.

A: There's the thinking that the President is somebody who is all powerful and can get everything done. In our system of government, I am the head of the executive branch. I'm not the head of the legislature; I'm not the head of the judiciary. We have to have cooperation from all these sources in order to get something done. And so I take responsibility for the fact that we didn't get it done, but I did not make a promise that I would get everything done, 100%, when I was elected. What is relevant is that I have never wavered in my support of comprehensive immigration reform. We did put forward a DREAM Act that was passed in the House, got the overwhelming majority of support from Democrats in the Senate, and was blocked by the Republican Party. We now are confronted with a choice between two candidates in which I am committed to the DREAM Act, and [Romney] said he would veto the DREAM Act.

Source: Obama-Romney interviews by Univision Noticias (Spanish News) , Sep 19, 2012

Let foreign students stay after graduating college

Hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren't yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else. That doesn't make sense.
Source: 2012 State of the Union speech , Jan 24, 2012

Increasing the legal fees on immigrants is not helping

It is important that we fix the legal immigration system, because right now we’ve got a backlog that means years for people to apply legally. What’s worse is, we keep on increasing the fees, so that if you’ve got a hard working immigrant family, they’ve got to hire a lawyer; they’ve got to pay thousands of dollars in fees. They just can’t afford it. It’s discriminatory against people who have good character, but don’t have the money. We’ve got to fix that. We have to improve our relationship with Mexico and work with the Mexican government so that their economy is producing jobs on that side of the border. The problem is that we have had an administration that came in promising all sorts of leadership on creating a US-Mexican relationship. Bush dropped the ball. He has been so obsessed with Iraq that we have not seen the kinds of outreach and cooperative work that would ensure that the Mexican economy is working not just for the very wealthy in Mexico, but for all people.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Solve the driver’s license issue with immigration reform

On the driver’s license issue, I don’t believe that we’re going to have to deal with this if we have comprehensive immigration reform, because people don’t come here to drive. They come here to work. If we have registered them, if they have paid a fine, if they are learning English and going to the back of the line, if we fix our legal immigration system, then we will not have this problem of undocumented workers in this country, because people will be able to actually go on a pathway to citizenship.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday , Jan 31, 2008

Health plan: not enough resources for illegal immigrants

Q: Does your health care plan cover the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants?

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.

Source: 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Democratic debate , Jan 21, 2008

Illegal immigrants’ lack of ID is a public safety concern

There is a public safety concern [with denying driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants]. We can make sure that drivers who are illegal come out of the shadows, that they can be tracked, that they are properly trained, and that will make our roads safer. That doesn’t negate the need for us to reform illegal immigration.
Source: 2007 Democratic debate at Drexel University , Oct 30, 2007

Extend welfare and Medicaid to immigrants

Source: 1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998

Barack Obama on Voting Record

Support the DREAM Act for the children of illegal immigrants

Q: You said, “I stood up for a humane and intelligent immigration policy in a way that, frankly, none of my other opponents did.” What did you mean by that?

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.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday , Jan 31, 2008

Voted YES on continuing federal funds for declared "sanctuary cities".

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To create a reserve fund to ensure that Federal assistance does not go to sanctuary cities that ignore the immigration laws of the United States and create safe havens for illegal aliens and potential terrorists. This vote is a motion to table the amendment; voting YES would kill the amendment.

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

Reference: Bill Table S.Amdt.4309 to S.Con.Res ; vote number 08-S069 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted YES on comprehensive immigration reform.

    Establishes specified benchmarks which must be met before the guest worker and legalization programs may be initiated:
  1. operational control of the border with Mexico;
  2. Border Patrol increases;
  3. border barriers, including vehicle barriers, fencing, radar, and aerial vehicles;
  4. detention capacity for illegal aliens apprehended crossing the US-Mexico border;
  5. workplace enforcement, including an electronic employment verification system; and
  6. Z-visa alien processing.

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.

Reference: McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform Bill; Bill S.1639 ; vote number 2007-235 on Jun 28, 2007

Voted NO on declaring English as the official language of the US government.

Voting YES would declare English as the national language of the Government of the US. Unless specifically provided by statute, no person would have an entitlement to have the Government of the US communicate or provide materials in any language other than English. If an exception is made with respect to the use of a language other than English, the exception does not create a legal entitlement to additional services in that language. If any form is issued by the Federal Government in a language other than English, the English language version of the form is the sole authority for all legal purposes. Nothing in this amendment shall prohibit the use of a language other than English.

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.

Reference: National Language Amendment Act; Bill S.Amdt.1151 to S.1348 ; vote number 2007-198 on Jun 6, 2007

Voted YES on building a fence along the Mexican border.

Within 18 months, achieves operational control over U.S. land and maritime borders, including:
  1. systematic border surveillance through more effective use of personnel and technology; and
  2. physical infrastructure enhancements to prevent unlawful border entry
Defines "operational control" as the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, narcotics, and other contraband.

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:

  1. systematic border surveillance through more effective use of personnel and technology; and
  2. physical infrastructure enhancements to prevent unlawful border entry
Defines "operational control" as the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, narcotics, and other contraband.

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

Reference: Secure Fence Act; Bill H R 6061 ; vote number 2006-262 on Sep 29, 2006

Voted YES on establishing a Guest Worker program.

Reference: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act; Bill S. 2611 ; vote number 2006-157 on May 25, 2006

Voted YES on allowing illegal aliens to participate in Social Security.

Voting YEA would table (kill) the proposed amendment to prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving Social Security benefits. Voting NAY supports that prohibition, while voting YEA supports immigrants participating in Social Security. Text of amendment:
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.
Reference: Preclusion of Social Security Credits; Bill S.Amdt.3985 to S.2611 ; vote number 2006-130 on May 18, 2006

Voted YES on giving Guest Workers a path to citizenship.

This amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act would prohibit H-2C nonimmigrants ("Guest Workers") from adjusting to lawful permanent resident status. Voting YEA on the motion to table (which would kill the amendment) indicates supporting a path to citizenship for guest workers. Voting NAY on the motion indicates opposing any path to citizenship. The amendment says:
Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, an alien having nonimmigrant status is ineligible for and may not apply for adjustment of status.''
Reference: Kyl Amendment to Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act; Bill S.Amdt.3969 to S.2611 ; vote number 2006-135 on May 18, 2006

Comprehensive immigration reform without amnesty.

Obama co-sponsored for comprehensive immigration reform without amnesty

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].

Source: Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (S.1033/H.R.2330) 05-S1033 on May 12, 2005

Sponsored bill paying fair prevailing wage to guest workers.

Obama sponsored paying fair prevailing wage to guest workers

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.

Source: S.AMDT.3971 to S.2611 06-SP3971 on May 15, 2006

Provide funding for social services for noncitizens.

Obama co-sponsored providing funding for social services for noncitizens

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.

Source: SCAAP Funding (S.AMDT.4072 to S.2611) 06-SP4072 on May 18, 2006

Rated 8% by USBC, indicating an open-border stance.

Obama scores 8% by USBC on immigration issues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 USBC scores as follows:

About USBC (from their website, www.usbc.org):

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.

Source: USBC website 06n-USBC on Dec 31, 2006

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