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'We're not going to deport you': Obama announces amnesty for millions of 'anchor baby' parents and illegal immigrant children -- as long as they've been in US for five years
Former President Barack Obama unwound from eight years in the White House with some extreme sports on his Caribbean vacation with billionaire friend Richard Branson.
New photos show the newly-retired Obama going kite-surfing with Branson during a recent vacation on the Virgin founder's private island.
The worries of the White House are clearly far from Obama's mind in the pictures - as he horses around with Branson on the boat, smiles widely for the cameras and then catches some air on his kite-surfing board.
New photos show Barack Obama going kite-surfing with friend Richard Branson on the billionaire's private island
Obama and first lady Michelle visited the island for a vacation after moving out of the White House last month
The 55-year-old former president may be 'retired' now but he's still fit enough to take in some extreme sports
Before strapping into his kite-surfing board, Obama and Branson horsed around on the boat
Sixty-six-year-old Branson, the founder of Virgin, got some air when he went out foil-boarding
Then they were off again for Branson's Necker Island. The couple partied with friends and lazed about the beach for more than a week - a much-deserved break after two terms.
Branson spoke about the 'honor' of being able to invite the former president and first lady to his island in a blog post on Tuesday.
Branson recalled a story Obama told him, after joining him on the island, about how he had to give up extreme sports after becoming president.
'One of the first stories Barack told me when he and Michelle arrived on Moskito Island was how, just before he became President, he had been surfing on a dangerous break in Hawaii. When he came in from an exhilarating session, the new head of his security team turned to him and said: “This will be the last time you surf for eight years.” For the next eight years he didn’t have the chance to surf, enjoy watersports or do many of the things he loved.
The Obamas are pictured arriving on Branson's private island last month. The couple spent a little more than a week soaking up the sun
The Obamas happily posed up with some locals who asked for a photo on January 24 - with their billionaire host Richard Branson as well. Obama had his hat backwards and a huge grin
The couple were seen walking hand in hand on their much-deserved vacation last month. They are now back in Washington, DC
'So it was tremendous to offer him the chance to learn to kitesurf,' Branson wrote.
Branson said that the two came up with a challenge. Obama would learn how to kite-surf, while Branson - a seasoned kite-surfer - would learn how to kite-surf with a foil board. On the last day, the two faced off to see who could stay up the longest.
'As you can see in the video, Barack and I both fell many times, but we kept trying again and again and made progress over the days. We were neck and neck until the last run on the last day, when I got up on the foilboard and screamed along for over 50 metres, three feet above the water. I was feeling very pleased with myself, only to look over and see Barack go 100 metres on his kiteboard! I had to doff my cap to him and celebrate his victory.
'After all he has done for the world, I couldn’t begrudge him his well-deserved win. Now he has left, I’m going back into the water to practice for the next challenge. On his next visit, we plan to do the long kite over to Anegada together. Next time, may the best (British) man win!' Branson wrote.
The Obamas are now back in Washington, DC where they have chosen to stay while youngest daughter Sasha finishes high school.
President Obama announced a plan Thursday night to mainstream millions of illegal immigrants with an executive order allowing them to stay instead of facing deportation, bringing howls from Republicans who complained about so-called 'anchor babies' helping their illegal parents remain in the U.S.
The president calmly explained in a 16-minute speech – subtitled in Spanish – the parameters of what angry Republicans are calling a lawless 'amnesty.'
'We’re going to offer the following deal,' he said: 'If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation.'
'You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.'
SCROLL DOWN TO READ OBAMA'S COMPLETE SPEECH
AMNESTY DAY: President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to remake America's immigration system without the say-so of Congress
MUCHAS GRACIAS: Supporters cheered in front of the White House as Obama delivered his address on immigration reform, saying that lifting the threat of expulsion from five million undocumented migrants would make the system 'more fair and just'
The Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas paused its broadcast on Thursday night to hear Obama's speech, complete with Spanish language subtitles, which was received with tears and loud applause
ARRIBA! Advocates for illegal immigrants watched the speech at Casa de Maryland in Hyattsville, Md.
'That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t,' the president cautioned.
'This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that.'
'All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.'
Republicans pushed back immediately, with most of the energy coming from tea party conservatives.
'Tonight President Obama issued an oral royal decree that will be followed by a written regal decree, as any good monarch would do,' Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert jabbed in a statement.
'This unlawful, blatant executive action would legalize more than 5 million people here illegally. This president is single-handedly creating a constitutional crisis and hurting the citizens he took an oath to protect and defend.'
Utah Sen. Mike Lee, another tea party-linked lawmaker, called the president's speech 'a desperate attempt to remain relevant.'
The U.S. president's sweeping immigration reform boils down to a temporary reprieve that will help certain groups of illegal immigrants avoid prosecution and deportation back to their home countries.
People in qualifying groups must pass criminal and national security background checks, pay taxes and a fine, and prove their eligibility.
The groups are:
No one qualifies for protection under the new guidelines if they were not living in the U.S. as of January 1, 2010.
It will take the federal government several months to prepare for receiving applications.
By that time, Republicans will control both houses of Congress and may take action to reverse the policy.
'The president has decided to defy the American people, ignore the election results, and usurp the legislative process,' Lee said. 'This act demonstrates he respects neither election outcomes, nor the rule of law.'
But the president played on Americans' heartstrings in what sounded at times like one of his 2008 campaign speeches.
The immigration debate, he said, is 'about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.'
'Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?' he asked. 'Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?'
'Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?'
He also quoted the Old Testament – Exodus chapter 22, verse 21.
'Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger,' the president said, 'for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too'
Obama's policy mainly targets parent of children who were born in the U.S. and are therefore citizens.
Millions of such children, derided as 'anchor babies' by commentators on the far right, are already guaranteed a place in America – but their parents are not. Current law permits the U.S. to deport the parents.
That term, considered by some to be in the same class as racist epithets but not strictly taboo in America, was nonetheless being tossed around Capitol Hill on Thursday.
MailOnline spoke to two Republican aides who readily complained about parents of 'anchor babies' who will benefit from Obama's plan.
'They were anchor babies yesterday and they'll be anchor babies tomorrow,' said a staffer to a GOP congressman from a southern state.
'If we want to keep those families together there are two ways to do it. One is the Obama way and the other is to send the whole family back across the border and make them wait in line like everyone else.'
'Obama issued an oral royal decree that will be followed by a written regal decree, as any good monarch would do,' said Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert
GOING BIBLICAL: Obama quoted the Bible, saying that 'Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too'
Another aide who serves as professional staff on one of the House of Representatives' standing committees, said that 'anchor babies are becoming an anchor around the neck of the U.S. economy.'
'What the president doesn't seem to get,' he said, 'is that Americans chose to reject his philosophy on Election Day, and part of that philosophy involves giving work authorizations to illegal immigrants so they can take jobs away from citizens.'
The Daily Caller calculated on Thursday that Obama's gambit will give legal status to more people than the number of jobs the White House has created since the president assumed office.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, blasted the president ahead of his speech for what he said was a blatant disregard for America's separation of powers.
'Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system, the president says he’s acting on his own,' he said. 'That’s just not how our democracy works.'
'The president has said before that "he's not king" and he's "not an emperor," but he’s sure acting like one.'
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives the legislative branch of government – Congress – authority to create laws covering immigration and naturalization.
South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan seconded Boehner.
'What the president has done is unprecedented, unconstitutional, and an affront to the American people,' Duncan said.
'In addition to poisoning the well and making it almost impossible to work together on other issues, the President’s actions have created a constitutional crisis that our Founding Fathers had hoped to avoid.'
South Dakota Sen. John Thune seemed to agree about what Republicans expected would be the consequences of the Nov. 6 election.
'President Obama’s decision to move forward unilaterally demonstrates a willful disregard of the American people,' Thune said.
'The president’s policies and go-it-alone approach were soundly rejected on election night. ... He may have chosen to ignore the American people, but congressional Republicans won’t. We hear their concerns, and we will take action.'
Thune also noted that Obama 'has stated more than 20 times that he lacks the authority to take this executive action.'
House Speaker John Boehner complained that 'Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system, the president says he’s acting on his own. That’s just not how our democracy works'
ROYALTY: Boehner mocked Obama Wednesday on Twitter for behaving like an autocrat
Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez is among the staunchest supporters of Obama's planned executive amnesty, which will largely benefit Hispanics living in U.S. illegally
The GOP highlighted many of those instances in a stinging online video Thursday, and blanketed Twitter with messages carrying the hashtag #unconstitutional.
Democrats and the White House communications shop countered with #ImmigrationAction.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who chairs an immigration task force with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, praised Obama on Thursday.
'President Obama is using his pen to help the country and we celebrate his courage,' he said. 'I am going sign up the families that are covered, keep fighting for the families that are not covered, and we are going to make the City of Chicago a model for the rest of the country.'
He insisted that Obama's unilateral actions should be codified into law, but held out little hope.
'We all must recognize that no executive action is a substitute for legislation, so the fundamental challenge of getting legislation through the Republican-controlled House remains the same,' Gutierrez said.
Labor unions, a key Democratic constituency, greeted the news with enthusiasm, in part because organized labor – outside of government – is at its low point in the postwar era.
George Gresham, president of a Service Employees International Union local that is America's largest healthcare union, said Obama's push for immigrants' rights 'is about the long struggle of our nation to live up to our ideals of welcoming hard-working newcomers and expanding full rights to all who strive for the American Dream.'
President Obama's order is a major step towards helping workers who want to play by the rules, pay their taxes, and become recognized members of our society,' added Maria Castaneda, the union's secretary-treasurer.
Mark Udall, a Utah Democratic senator who lost his re-election bid two weeks ago, praised the president – who he said had 'finally heeded my calls and acted.'
'This common-sense and badly needed step will ensure the federal government focuses on deporting criminals and people who pose a safety threat to our communities or our national security — not families seeking a better life,' Udall said.
No one will qualify for deportation relief under Obama's plan unless they have been in the U.S. since the beginning of 2010.
'Recent border crossers,' the White House said, will become 'a priority for deportation.'
Another newly advantaged group are so-called 'DREAMers,' people who were brought to the United States as children.
Obama is protecting those 'who arrived in the US before turning 16 years old and before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today,' the White House said.
Mexican border residents and members of the Border Network for Human Rights protested in August against the deportation of children; they walked for four days and 100 miles from southern New Mexico to west Texas
LOYAL OPPOSITION: People began to gather at dusk outside the White House on Thursday, including some conservative protesters who oppose Obama's action
A White House press pool reporter heard supporters chanting 'Si se pudo' – 'Yes we could' – outside the gates of the White House, as amnesty fans outnumbered detractors by the time the president spoke
The White House has tacitly acknowledged that Thursday's move is a temporary fix, while also demanding buy-in from Congress to make it permanent.
'To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill,' Obama said.
That seems unlikely, however. And a hypothetical Republican president elected in 2016 could reverse his entire plan with the stroke of a different pen.
'We cannot let this stand,' said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa.
'The president’s unilateral actions on immigration are a violation of his responsibilities and the trust the American people have placed in him,' said the California Republican.
'President Obama is playing a dangerous political game with lives and deepening the mistrust that the American people and Congress have in his ability to faithfully execute the law.'
Issa and other staunch conservatives have pledged to use their new and larger majorities in Congress to block Obama from implementing his orders.
The president has broad discretion to determine how to enforce certain laws, but lawmakers can use the power of the purse to forbid the government from spending money to implement those plans.
The Department of Homeland Security, for instance, has requested commercial bids for a project that would produce as many as 34 million 'green cards' and work permits. Producing those documents is an example of something whose execution requires budgetary permission.
Obama's entire program won't go into effect for 'several months,' the White House said.
That may give Republicans enough time to plan a way to stop Obama.
DREAMERS: People brought illegally to America as children under 16 before 2010 will be allowed to stay in the US
'ANCHOR BABY': Jorge Mendez, from Glendale, Ariz., dressed as a baby to play the satirical role of an 'anchor baby' during a press conference in 2011, as he opposed a proposed state law that would have denied citizenship to some babies born in the state
Some in Congress favor a plan to use a Dec. 11 budget extension deadline as leverage, while others insist it's legally possible to employ a little-used process called 'recision' to remove line items from a budget that has already become law.
Obama will not sign any budget bill that defunds Thursday's order, a senior official told the D.C. newspaper Roll Call, and Republicans lack veto-proof majorities needed to cancel out his disapproval.
The White House relied Thursday on a complicated and controversial opinion that insists there's a link between deportation reprieves and border security.
By reclassifying millions as legal U.S. residents, the logic goes, the government will no longer be obligated to expend resources tracking them down, capturing them and deporting them.
That, the administration argues, will free up manpower and money to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.
Complicating that picture is a flood of hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minor children who have cascaded into the U.S. illegally from Central American countries since 2012 when Obama first announced that he would give a reprieve to DREAMers.
HUNGER STRIKE: Lenka Mendoza of Dumfries, Va. (red hat, center) is originally from Peru and has two children who qualified for relief as 'DREAMers' in 2012 – and he's now fasting until the president 'legalizes' millions. Shown standing, right, is Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez
SI, SE PUEDE: A Telemundo network television crew recorded footage outside the White House as dusk falls in Washington just hours before Barack Obama's announcement that he has made sweeping changes to US immigration law without approval from Congress. The network is one of only two – the other is Spanish-language Univision – to carry the speech live.
Activists pushing for new legal status for a mostly Hispanic population of 11 million people living in the shadows have been calling on Obama to protect a broad spectrum of illegal immigrants
'The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back,' the White House claimed in a fact sheet sent to reporters in the hour before Obama's speech
'Continuing the surge of resources that effectively reduced the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally this summer, the President’s actions will also centralize border security command-and-control to continue to crack down on illegal immigration.'
It's the soon-to-be-legal immigrants, however, that concern advocates on the left who plan to help them.
Alex Galvez, an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles, told the Associated Press that he is going to need to add phone lines to keep up with the demand for green cards and work permits.
Orange County, California-based immigration lawyer Annaluisa Padilla said she’s getting twice as many calls as usual since buzz intensified over the plan, which would also grant the immigrants work permits.
'It's like the golden ticket,' she said. 'Everybody who is calling my office is asking how can I get a work permit under Obama’s program? I am like, there is no Obama program yet.'
Immigrant advocacy groups in Southern California are planning workshops to inform community members about the order, including a 12,000-person forum at the Los Angeles Convention Center in mid-December, said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
The New Mexico Immigrant Law Center is planning a to start a text messaging system targeting immigrants across the state, especially those in rural areas where legal services might not be easily accessible.Immigrant advocates in Florida are planning the same, and will also start a hotline in English and Spanish to keep community members informed.
In New York, immigration lawyers and nonprofits are preparing to hold clinics to help screen immigrants for the program.
Mayra Gallegos, a 33-year-old mother of two and trained nurse, is pinning her hopes on Obama’s plan. She came from Mexico a decade ago to join her husband, who has since gotten a green card. Her younger son was born here, and is an American. But she and her elder son have not been able to get their papers.
'What Obama is going to do, if he does it, would really help me and my son,' said Gallegos, who hopes to find a job as a nurse should she receive a work permit. 'We’re always watching to see if there’s any news.'
But some advocates warned immigrants not to get their hopes up yet – especially with lawmakers threatening to thwart Obama’s plan.
'What I am telling my families to do is be prepared for war. We’re going to see a legislative arm do whatever they can to stop the president,' said Jessica Dominguez, an immigration attorney in Southern California. 'I am not going to let my community be saddened again by words. We need action.'
Obama, shown on a monitor in the White House press briefing room, insisted that America needs 'reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears'
WAITING: Members of the staff at the immigration and legal services office of Catholic Charities held an impromptu meeting on Thursday to discuss Obama's pending immigration action announcement – and the crush of immigrants they expect to come out of the woodwork and ask for documents that will let them stay
In Sacramento County, California, however, Sheriff Scott Jones issued an impassioned plea to Obama in a video published Thursday.
He told stories of criminal aliens who went on crime sprees and people who killed after multiple deportations.
'I understand the integral role that the undocumented population plays in our national and state economies,' Jones said.
'The problem I have is I can’t tell which ones are good and which ones are evil, and neither can you. By their very definition they are undocumented.'
“This is not about racism – it is about an increasingly violent and uncertain world in which we are inadequately protected.'
He asked for a permanent solution instead of a temporary proposal.
'Mr. President, my request to you today can simply be stated: make immigration reform a priority,' Jones said.
'I do not care which reform you choose. Pathway to citizenship, guest work program, or any of the other innovative programs that currently exist.”
“But deferred action or amnesty is deferring this crisis. It is not reform, it’s simply giving up. It does nothing to make America or the undocumented population any safer.'
'My fellow Americans, tonight, I'd like to talk with you about immigration.
'For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It's kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.
'But today, our immigration system is broken – and everybody knows it.
'Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.
'It's been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven't done much about it.
'When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it's been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.
'Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn't perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.
'Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.
'Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.
'Tonight, I am announcing those actions.
'First, we'll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.
'Second, I'll 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.
'Third, we'll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.
'I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we're also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous. That's why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that's why we're going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. 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.
'But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally. And let's be honest -– tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn't realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn't being straight with you. It's also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours. As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: "They are a part of American life."
'Now here's the thing: We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we're going to offer the following deal: If you've been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you're willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you'll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That's what this deal is.
'Now, let's be clear about what it isn't. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that. All we're saying is we're not going to deport you.
'I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it's not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.
'That's the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I'm describing is accountability – a common-sense, middle-ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you're a criminal, you'll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.
'The actions I'm taking are not only lawful, they're the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.
'I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don't let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That's not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn't shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose – a higher purpose.
'Most Americans support the types of reforms I've talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don't like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship.
'I know some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they've gotten the raw deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that's not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it's important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other's character.
'Because for all the back and forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It's about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.
'Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?
'Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents' arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works together to keep them together?
'Are we a nation that educates the world's best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America?
'That's what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration. We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears. I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it.
'Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs without taking a dime from the government, and at risk any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I've seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn't have the right papers. I've seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in the country they love.
'These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America's success.
'Tomorrow, I'll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn't speak any English. She caught up to other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and she became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mom cleaned other people's homes. They wouldn't let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school, not because they didn't love her, but because they were afraid the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn't travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.
'Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid, or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.
'My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.
'That's the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That's the tradition we must uphold. That's the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.
'Thank you. God bless you. And God bless this country we love.'
As PREZ Obama pushes Congress to pass immigration reform, there are some who believe he isn’t pushing hard or fast enough for solutions. According to Talking Points Memo, he encountered such a person yesterday in San Francisco.
President Barack Obama was interrupted by a pro-immigration reform activist on Monday while pushing for a comprehensive solution to the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants in California.
While speaking at the Betty Ong Recreation Center in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Obama rebutted a heckler who shouted that the president could stop all deportations by merely signing an executive order.
“You have a power to stop all deportations,” the heckler said.
“Actually, I don’t,” Obama responded. ”The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, I would do so.”
Earlier in the address, Obama noted that while House Republicans remained opposed to comprehensive reform, he had hope Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) would eventually move on the issue.
“I believe the Speaker is sincere,” he said. “I think he genuinely wants to get it done.”
At the event, the president described the immigration reform solution he hopes Congress will move on:
This year, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill by a wide, bipartisan majority, and it addresses the key issues that need to be addressed. It would strengthen our borders. It would level the playing field by holding employers accountable if they knowingly hire undocumented workers. It would modernize our legal immigration system so that we eliminate the backlog of family visas and make it easier to attract highly skilled entrepreneurs from beyond our borders. It would make sure that everybody plays by the same rules by providing a pathway to earned citizenship for those who are living in the shadows –- a path that includes passing a background check, and learning English, and paying taxes and a penalty, and getting in line behind everyone trying to come here the right way.
Do you agree with the president on creating a pathway to citizenship for more of the nearly 12 MILLION undocumented immigrants the in this country?
Should legal status be granted to all or many of the nation's undocumented immigrants?