POLITICS -- May 10, 2011 at 4:54 PM EDT
Obama Makes Immigration Reform Pitch in El Paso
President Obama traveled to El Paso, Texas, Tuesday to renew his call for reforming immigration law, praising the work his administration has done in securing the border with Mexico and touting citizenship opportunities for some illegal immigrants already in the country.
"We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants, a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America's ideals and America's precepts. That's why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here," Mr. Obama said in his first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border as president, pointing to economic and scientific advancements provided by immigrants and their ancestors.
"We've often wrestled with the politics of who is and who isn't allowed to come into this country...at times, there has been fear and resentment directed toward newcomers, especially in hard economic times," he said.
Immigration measures have made little progress in Congress in recent months, including the failure of the Dream Act, which would allow the children who enter the United States illegally before age 16 legal status to stay, provided they attend two years of college or enter the U.S. military.
In a statement after President Obama's border visit, Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona urged the president to focus on issues on border security, before taking on larger immigration reform:
"Before any effort is made to undertake large-scale immigration reform, we encourage the President to support and work with us to pass the Border Security Enforcement Act, which will provide the much needed personnel, infrastructure, and technology to gain control of our southern border."
President Obama said his administration had already made progress in making a more secure border. "We have strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible ... we now have more boots on the ground on the southwest border than at any time in our history," he said, pointing to lower crime rates in some border cities.
The president also cited that businesses break the law to employ illegal immigrants, without proper employment protections and at an unfair cost to those businesses hiring legally, categorizing immigration reform as an "economic imperative."
He outlined a broad reform plan, including strengthening enforcement of existing laws for both businesses and illegal immigrants themselves, and making it easier for immigrants to gain legal status.
We'll have more on the president's immigration pitch on Tuesday's NewsHour. Stay tuned.