President Barack Obama: "We Define Ourselves as a Nation of Immigrants"

Squinting under the fierce El Paso sun, President Obama delivered a speech about immigration reform that reiterated the need for Congress to “catch up” with the rest of the country, which he says has formed a consensus that the “immigration system is broken.”

"We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants," insisted Obama. "A nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s precepts.  That’s why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here – so they could be free to work and worship and live their lives in peace."

Obama reiterated his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, saying it was vital to the country’s economic health. However, he did not offer a specific timeline or plan for pressuring Congress to do so. He asked the audience to help by letting their Congress representatives know that they want immigration reform.

The President took aim at Republicans who have insisted on securing the borders before tackling immigration reform by laying out what his administration had done to address their concerns—pointing to the fact that there are more border patrol agents now than ever and that seizure of drugs, guns and dirty money along the border were at an all-time high. Deportations are also are at an all-time high.

“Even though we’ve answered these concerns, I suspect there will be those who will try to move the goal posts one more time,” Obama said. “They’ll say we need to quadruple the border patrol, double the fence. Maybe they’ll say we need a moat.  Or alligators in the moat.  They’ll never be satisfied.  That’s politics.” 

Obama acknowledged that most undocumented immigrants are decent folks who just want to feed their families, but said that through their actions, undocumented immigrants are “making a mockery of those who go through the legal process” to get here. The undocumented have to acknowledge that they need to pay their taxes, learn English and submit to a background test in order to join the back of the line to become legal.

Lillian Rodriguez-López, chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, said in response to President Obama's speech, “Today I am encouraged that President Obama has made this crucial issue a priority.  But for the President’s message to take hold, he must show that this is not a Hispanic issue, this is an American issue. We move forward for the benefit of all or fail once again to nation’s detriment. With a struggling economy and weakened labor force, we cannot afford to prohibit the millions currently living in the shadows from fully contributing to our economy."