President Obama talks about immigration reform

By Staff
Northwest Asian Weekly

During President Obama’s speech at the Betty Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco’s Chinatown on Monday, Nov. 25, he announced an agreement between the United States, its allies, and Iran on a “first step towards resolving our concerns over its nuclear program,” according to Shin Inouye, White House director of specialty media. Then the president spoke to the crowd — many of Asian descent —about immigration.

“It’s long past time to fix our broken immigration system,” he said.  “We need to make sure Washington finishes what so many Americans just like you started. We’ve got to finish the job. And it’s fitting that we’re here in Chinatown, just a few miles away from Angel Island. In the early 1900s, about 300,000 people — maybe some of your ancestors — passed through on their way to a new life in America. And for many, it represented the end of a long and arduous journey. They’d finally arrived in a place where they believed anything was possible.”

The president noted that the immigration debate often focuses on the southern border, but “more than one in four residents born outside the United States came here from Asian countries.”

After plugging the Affordable Care Act, acknowledging its website woes, and blaming Republicans for Washington gridlock, President Obama went on to say that a top immigration priority for businesses was that “we invite the brightest minds from around the world to study here…and then we don’t invite them to stay. We end up sending them home to create new jobs and start new businesses someplace else.”

Then he addressed the concerns facing families across the country. “I hear from folks who’ve been separated from their families for years because of green card backlogs who desperately want their loved ones to be able to join them here in America. I hear from young DREAMers, who are Americans through and through in every way but on paper, and they just want a chance to study and serve and contribute to the nation that they love.”

The president also touched on the subject of undocumented workers.

“I talk to business owners who play by the rules, but get frustrated because they end up being undercut by those who exploit workers in a shadow economy — aren’t getting paid overtime, aren’t required to meet the same obligations. And so those companies end up losing out on business.”

There are plenty of leaders, he said, “who don’t think it’s fair that we’ve got 11 million people in this country, including more than a million from Asia, with no real way to come forward and get on the right side of the law. And we have kicked this particular can down the road long enough.”

The president dicussing the immigration reform bill passed by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. “It would strengthen our borders,” he said. “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.

“And what’s more,” he added, “we know the immigration reform that we’re proposing would boost our economy and shrink our deficits. Independent economists have said that if the Senate bill became law, over the next two decades, our economy would grow by $1.4 trillion more, and it would reduce our deficits by $850 billion more. Workers will be more productive if they’ve got their families here with them, they’re not worried about deportation, they’re not living halfway around the world.”

At this point, a man, identified in news reports as 24-year-old South Korean immigrant named Ju Hong, asked the president to “please use your executive order to halt deportations for all 11.5 undocumented immigrants in this country right now.” The man said his family had been separated for 19 months. “Stop deportations!” he shouted.

The president said if he could solve problems without passing laws in Congress, he would.

“But we’re also a nation of laws,” said the president. “That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve. But it won’t be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done.” (end)

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