NPR logo Obama Calls For Immigration Fix, Puts Arizona On Notice


Obama Calls For Immigration Fix, Puts Arizona On Notice

President Barack Obama applauds following the administration of a military naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House April 23, 2010 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Barack Obama applauds following the administration of a military naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House April 23, 2010 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

At a White House Rose Garden naturalization ceremony Friday for U.S. service members, President Barack Obama gave every indication that he intended to press ahead with comprehensive immigration overhaul though he didn't give a sense of his timing on the issue.

Obama said it was the responsibility of federal policymakers to act on solving one of the most controversial and gnarly issues in American politics. And in an outline of what he envisions, he painted a picture of an overhaul that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, what opponents of such an idea detest as an amnesty.

Not doing so, Obama suggested, would leave the door open to more state and local actions that threaten to violate the civil rights of Americans and illegal immigrants as well.

The president specifically singled out as an act of "irresponsibility" legislation passed by Arizona that would authorize law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of individuals they stop. The also labeled the Arizona effort as "misguided."

Furthermore, Obama said his administration will be keeping a close eye on Arizona to monitor whether it violates the civil rights of people there.

Here's the relevant passage from his remarks:

In short, today we celebrate the very essence of the country that we all love: an America where so many of our forbears came from someplace else, a society that's been enriched by traditions and cultures from every corner of the world, a dynamic economy that's
constantly renewed by the talents and energies of each new citizen, and a people who understand that citizenship is not just a collection of rights but it's also a set of responsibilities.

Like so many others, these men and women met their responsibilities. They played by the rules. They have earned their citizenship. And so on a day like this, we are also reminded of how we must remain both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.

This includes America's broken immigration system. Over the years, many have attempted to confront this challenge. But passions are great, and disagreements run deep. Yet surely we can all agree that when 11 million people in our country are living here illegally
outside the system, that's unacceptable.

The American people demand and deserve a solution. They deserve common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability.

Government has a responsibility to enforce the law and secure our borders and set clear rules and priorities for future immigration. And under Secretary Napolitano's leadership at the Department of Homeland Security, that's exactly what we're doing.

We've strengthened security at our borders, ports and airports. And we will continue to do so, because America's borders must be secure. That's part of what these young people here today stand for.

Businesses have a responsibility to obey the law and not undermine American workers, especially when so many Americans are out of work. Many businesses work to comply with the law every day.

But for those that don't, those that ignore the law and exploit and abuse vulnerable workers and try to gain an unfair advantage over all the businesses that do follow the law, we will hold them accountable.

And people who are in America illegally have a responsibility — to pay their back taxes and admit responsibility for breaking the law, pay a penalty, learn English, pass criminal background checks and get right with the law — or face removal — before they can get in line and eventually earn their citizenship.

So responsibility, accountability, common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. I thank Secretary Napolitano for helping to lead our efforts, both on and off Capitol Hill. And I thank Senators Schumer and Graham for working with us to forge a bipartisan consensus
on a framework for moving forward. And I welcome the commitment of House and Senate Democratic leaders to take action.

I'll continue to consult with Democrats and Republicans in Congress. And I would note that 11 current Republican senators voted to pass immigration reform four years ago. And I'm hopeful that they will join with Democrats in doing so again so we can make the progress the American people deserve.

Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others, and that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the
trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe. In fact, I've instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation. But if we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.

As a nation, as a people, we can choose a different future, a future that keeps faith with our history, with our heritage and with the hope that America has always inspired in the hearts of people all over the world.