Speaking from American University in Washington, D.C. this morning, President Obama laid out some details on the framework for his plan for comprehensive immigration reform.
He spoke out against Arizona’s recent controversial immigration law, which in many ways duplicates current federal immigration law, as “ill-conceived.” Obama says a patchwork of immigration enforcement laws by local governments puts huge pressure on local enforcement agencies “to enforce rules that are ultimately unenforceable.” Obama says that such laws put additional pressure on state budgets, create a disincentive to report crimes in those communities, and open the door for discrimination based on race or one’s appearance.
In reference to what to do with the estimated population of 11 million undocumented people currently living in the United States outside of the law, Obama’s plan appears to be closely patterned after the Kennedy-McCain comprehensive immigration reform bill that was proposed a few years ago. Specifically, Obama would create a pathway to legal status for these individuals. They would be required to come forward and self-identify, register in a government tracking database, pay a fine, pay taxes, and learn English before they could get in line and earn their citizenship. Presumably, as proposed in the Kennedy-McCain bill, their place in line would be somewhere behind those who are obeying federal immigration law by entering the United States through legal channels.
Obama’s framework would also make it easier for best and brightest to come to the United States to create jobs and help stimulate the U.S. economy. He did not discuss the specifics of how he would do this. Presumably it would involve a system wherein higher credentials, including education and experience, would increase the ability of an individual to receive a work visa.
Finally, President Obama would revive the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would provide certain undocumented alien students who (1) graduate from U.S. high schools, (2) demonstrate good moral character, (3) arrive in the United States as minors, and (4) have been here continuously for at least five years, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency. The students would obtain temporary residency for a period of six years. Within the six-year period, the student would have to receive a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States, or at least have completed 2 years toward a bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, the student could serve in the armed forces for at least 2 years with an honorable discharge.
Initial estimates say that Obama’s plan would cost $600 million and would include more than 1000 new federal agents, five new FBI task forces, and more immigration judges and prosecutors.