Engage and Connect

President Obama is committed to making this the most open and participatory administration in history. That begins with taking your questions and comments, inviting you to join online events with White House officials, and giving you a way to engage with your government on the issues that matter the most.

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Latest News

  • Tune In: The President Addresses the Nation on Immigration Reform

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the White House blog. See the original post here.

     

     

    Our immigration system has been broken for decades -- and every minute we fail to act, millions of people who live in the shadows but want to play by the rules and pay taxes have no way to live right by the law and contribute to our country.

    So tomorrow night, President Obama will address the nation to lay out the executive actions he’s taking to fix our broken immigration system. You can watch the President live tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET at WhiteHouse.gov/Live.

    This is a step forward in the President’s plan to work with Congress on passing common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. He laid out his principles for that reform two years ago in Del Sol High School in Las Vegas -- and that’s where he’ll return on Friday to discuss why he is using his executive authority now, and why Republicans in Congress must act to pass a long-term solution to immigration reform.

    The Senate passed a bipartisan bill more than 500 days ago, and while the country waits for House Republicans to vote, the President will act -- like the Presidents before him -- to fix our immigration system in the ways that he can.

    So tune in tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET to learn what the President is doing to ensure that America will continue to be what it has always been: a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

  • Responding to Sexual Violence in Indian Country

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Justice's blog. See the original post here.

    Sexual violence is a devastating and pervasive problem throughout the nation, and its shocking prevalence on tribal lands is especially troubling.

    Particularly in recent years, the Department of Justice has made it a top priority to put an end to that unacceptable status quo – from our work to secure and pass important new protections for women in Indian Country, as part of last year’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, to the creation of an American Indian/Alaska Native Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Sexual Assault Response Team Initiative through the Department’s Office for Victims of Crime.

    Bringing together diverse federal offices, as well as tribal nations and organizations, this Initiative’s critical mission is to strengthen the federal response to sexual violence in tribal nations. On Friday, I had the privilege of meeting with the Initiative’s Coordination Committee to discuss ways to take this work to a new level – and to receive the Committee’s formal report and concrete recommendations on improving federal agency response to sexual violence in tribal nations.

  • Promoting Prosperity and Security in Central America

    Today, the Vice President and other senior Administration officials participated in the Inter-American Development Bank Conference, “Investing in Central America: Unlocking Opportunities for Development.” The Vice President emphasized the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to working with Central American countries to address the underlying causes of the dangerous migration of families and unaccompanied children north to the United States. The Vice President’s speech follows important meetings held by President Obama this summer with the presidents of three Central American countries and the Vice President’s visit to Guatemala in June to meet with regional leaders.

    The Obama Administration is taking an integrated and comprehensive approach to address the gaps in economic opportunity, institutional deficiencies, and security challenges that helped contribute to the migration that happened during the summer – developing a strategy that emphasizes and balances prosperity, governance, and security objectives. 

    A sustainable solution requires effective regional cooperation and partnership, with an active role for the private sector, development banks, and international donors.  Trade and investment, which are essential to creating more jobs and opportunities for the young people joining the labor market every year, need the right conditions to flourish.

    The United States will work closely with the governments of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as with other international partners, as they implement the “Alliance for Prosperity” presented by the leaders of the three countries at the Inter-American Development Bank.  Central American leaders have recognized that they have to take the lead in creating the economic, social, governance, rule of law and citizen security conditions to address factors contributing to increases in migration.  We will support violence prevention programs and policies; efforts to professionalize the security forces; increased transparency and accountability in Central American government finances; and improvements to regional efforts to lower energy costs and make trade more efficient.

    The Obama Administration has mounted a significant effort to respond in an efficient way to the influx of Central American migrants at the Rio Grande Valley over the summer.  The President took decisive action by surging border enforcement and Department of Justice resources, ramping efforts to go after criminal smuggling networks and engaging in aggressive diplomacy to make sure that all countries in the region are working in concert to break the flow of migrants and to address the underlying causes of the migration. These efforts built upon the unprecedented investments in border security that the Administration has already made, and reaffirmed the Administration’s commitments to enforcing our borders and deterring illegal migration.

    And today, there are encouraging signs that these actions are working and the situation is improving, as the numbers of unaccompanied children at the border continue to decline. The monthly numbers are now the lowest they’ve been in almost two years. Despite this progress, we must and will remain vigilant and continue to aggressively work to address underlying causes of migration and deter future increases.

    As part of this effort to improve safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are undertaking, the United States is establishing an in-country refugee/parole program in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The program will allow certain parents who are lawfully present in the United States to request access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for their children still in one of these three countries. Children who are found ineligible for refugee admission but still at risk of harm may be considered for parole on a case-by-case basis. 

    The refugee/parole program will not be a pathway for undocumented parents to bring their children to the United States. Instead, the program will provide certain vulnerable, at-risk children an opportunity to be reunited with parents lawfully resident in the United States. This program will begin accepting applications in December 2014. You can learn more about the in-country refugee/parole program HERE.

    The President, Vice President and the Obama Administration look forward to continue to work with Central American countries to address the underlying factors contributing to increased migration and develop a regional solution that provides greater economic opportunities for Central America, with strong democratic institutions, more accountable, transparent, and effective public institutions, and where citizens feel safe and can build their lives in peace and stability. 

    Ricardo Zúñiga serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, for the National Security Council. 

  • Honoring the Contributions of Immigrants Serving in the Military

    President Barack Obama Listens During Naturalization Ceremony

    President Barack Obama listens as Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security administers the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House, July 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    On this Veterans' Day, our country will honor and recognize the contributions that our service men and women have taken to ensure peace and freedom around the world. These service men and women have answered the call to duty and have contributed to making our Armed Forces the finest the world has ever seen. The success of our military, and indeed, our nation as a whole, is rooted in the courage, spirit and sacrifice demonstrated by generations of immigrants who have responded valiantly to the call to duty.

    Our American journey, our success, would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from all corners of the globe. They have tirelessly fought for American independence and defended our ideals, since our earliest days as a nation. Currently, we have more than 30,000 lawful permanent residents who are serving in our Armed Forces. This Administration recognizes the selfless commitment of many individuals who defend a country in which they are not yet citizens. On Veterans' Day -- and every day -- we thank all our veterans, including those who are immigrants, for protecting and strengthening a homeland they valiantly served, even before they were recognized on paper as being American citizens.

    President Obama has continued to support immigrants serving in the Armed Forces through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) initiatives that streamline procedures and help qualified individuals navigate our complex immigration system. Since 2002, more than 102,000 men and women, including individuals serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, Japan and elsewhere, have become citizens while wearing the uniform of the U.S. military. Additionally, more than 9,000 Afghans -- over 6,000 since last October -- who have worked for the United States in Afghanistan have benefited from the Special Immigrant Visa process. We have the highest respect for these men and women who take enormous risk in supporting our military and civilian personnel.

    From now until November 14, USCIS will welcome more than 3,000 new U.S. citizens at nearly 40 naturalization ceremonies nationwide. Last week, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, USCIS Director León Rodríguez administered the Oath of Allegiance and presented the candidates for naturalization at a ceremony for military members and their families whom we can now proudly call our fellow Americans. This event also commemorated the U.S. Marine Corps' 239th birthday and their importance to our nation.

    Other highlights include ceremonies at:

    • Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. on Nov. 7;
    • Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 7;
    • Everglades National Park in Homestead, Florida, on Nov. 10; and
    • Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada on Nov. 11.

    In addition, the White House will meet with military service members, veterans, and their families who flew to DC this week to share their stories about ways they are directly impacted by our broken immigration system.  The effort known as "Veterans 4 Reform" was established to advocate for immigration reform from a military and veteran perspective.

    At a Fourth of July naturalization ceremony held at the White House earlier this year, the President spoke to the rich tradition of service and sacrifice made by service men and women, and military spouses:

    Each of you has traveled a long journey to this moment -- journeys that began in places like Jamaica and Germany, China and Guatemala. And yet somehow -- either because your parents brought you here as children, or because you made the choice yourselves as adults -- you ended up here, in America. And then many of you did something extraordinary:  You signed up to serve in the United States military.  You answered the call – to fight and potentially to give your life for a country that you didn’t fully belong to yet.  You understood what makes us American is not just circumstances of birth, or the names in our family tree.  It’s that timeless belief that from many we are one; that we are bound together by adherence to a set of beliefs and unalienable rights; that we have certain obligations to each other, to look after each other, and to serve one another.

    Immigration revitalizes our nation and positions our nation to lead in the 21st century, including our Armed Forces. These are some of the many reasons the President still believes it is critical to pass commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform.

    The Senate immigration reform bill (S. 744), would continue to strengthen border security, create a path to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants, hold employers accountable, and modernize our legal immigration system so that it better meets the needs of families, employers, and workers. Key provisions of the legislation would have significant and lasting benefits for the Armed Forces. For example, DREAMERS would be provided an expedited path to citizenship under the legislation and would increase the military’s pool of eager and talented youth.

    The President has vowed to fix as much of our immigration system as he can on his own, while we continue to urge Congress to work with us to pass legislative reform.

    On this Veteran’s Day, we come together as a nation to honor our veterans -- including our immigrant veterans. We thank them once again for their service, dedication and sacrifice to our great nation.

  • Promoting Rural Opportunity by Expanding Access to Broadband

    President Obama has made expanding broadband access a key priority throughout his Administration. He launched the ConnectED Initiative in June 2013, ensuring that 99% of our students will have high-speed broadband in their classrooms by 2017 and that broadband infrastructure will reach rural areas. The White House Rural Council has supported these efforts to expand access to affordable broadband networks to support community benefits such as education, health care, and job creation.

    Just this week, the White House Rural Council hosted a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA members are rural, independent, telecommunication companies from across America. NTCA advocates on behalf of these companies to ensure that they can drive innovation and deliver service throughout rural America. Our dialogue was focused on NTCA’s Smart Rural Community initiative, which recognizes a small selection of NTCA members who are exceptionally serving their communities by using their broadband systems to improve health care infrastructure, education, government services, among other needs.

    White House Rural Council hosted a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association

    The White House Rural Council hosts a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. (Photo courtesy of NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association)

  • Helping Those Who Help Themselves

    Les Lak

    Les Lak is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

    My grandparents came to this country from Poland with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a strong work ethic, and desire for a better life. Today, their children and their children’s children are part of the backbone of this country. Because of the struggle of my grandparents, I can empathize with our employees at Blasch Precision Ceramics who are immigrants. We currently employ immigrants from countries all around the world, including Sudan, Yemen, Russia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many of these people endured – and still endure – the same challenges that my grandparents endured almost a century ago. We are passionate about providing our employees with tools necessary to becoming U.S. citizens.

    The Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County have played a key role in opening the door of opportunity to those who work for us looking for a better life in the United States. Founded in 1968, Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County (LVORC) is a nonprofit volunteer organization helping hundreds adults, families, and children learn how to read, write in, and speak English. Blasch works closely with our local chapter to provide workplace literacy instruction to our foreign-born workers. We understand that providing this service has enormous benefits to both the employees and Blasch. Employees participating in these classes increase are motivated to contribute more to the success of Blasch, ultimately contributing to our bottom line.

    As part of this program, employees are able to take advantage of citizenship preparation classes, civics classes, computer training, money management training, high school equivalency instruction, and math tutoring. Because of this extensive training, six of our current employees have received their U.S. citizenship.

    We feel that it is important to recognize the sacrifices and struggles that our immigrant employees faced just getting to the United States. From the beginning, they have demonstrated a strong will and determination to succeed.

    The sheer number of people that this program touches makes it a real feel-good story. Employees hail from war-torn countries seeking better lives. Volunteers give up their own time to help them prepare for citizenship. This is their award, too.   

    I have gotten to know many of our employees. They tell me about their families, their countries, how well their kids are doing, their hopes and dreams.  I highly respect them and enjoy hearing their success stories.  This award is their story, and it is the same beautiful story played out over decades by millions seeking a better life who have helped make America great.

    Les Lak is the Vice President of Operations and Systems at Blasch Precision Ceramics in Albany, NY. 

  • Investing in Employees

    Robert Hill

    Robert Hill is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

    From the outside, managing a hotel may appear straightforward. We provide a comfortable place to stay for our guests and host major conferences and events. But if you scratch the surface, it’s easy to understand why running a large hotel operation is kind of like running a small city.

    The InterContinental Miami hosts 500,000 people per year. No matter who our guests are or where they come from, they all expect a high caliber of service and a comfortable environment. Making sure our hotel runs smoothly is a team effort. On any given day, more than 350 colleagues work on our property. Being located in a large gateway city like Miami, a large percentage of our workforce is made up of team members who – like our guests – come from somewhere else.

    Because we view all of our colleagues as part of the InterContinental Miami family, we made the decision to help our non-native colleagues navigate the path to U.S. citizenship.

    As a very fortunate immigrant who arrived in America from Ireland with a lottery U.S. Resident Green Card twenty years ago, I have experienced first-hand how the task of earning citizenship can be daunting and difficult. It just made sense to support the New American Workforce, a nonprofit organization who could facilitate the U.S. citizenship process for our colleagues and for the more than 8.8 million immigrants who are eligible to apply.

    From organizing application workshops and civics instruction to helping individuals through the often confusing and expensive process for free, the New American Workforce fills a critical role in our society.

    Since partnering with the New American Workforce in 2012, more than ten InterContinental Miami colleagues have achieved U.S. citizenship, and four more are on the path to completing the process within the next year. Citizenship allows these individuals to make long-term investments in their families, communities, and our local Miami economy.

    It also makes business sense. Our hotel spends significant resources each year on colleague development and training. Retaining non-native members of our team through citizenship enables us to generate a long-term return on our investment while building colleague loyalty and helping us cultivate talent from within.

    Our colleagues who have benefited from our program often ask how they can give back themselves. Fortunately, our hotel is involved in a number of nonprofit organizations that make it possible to help others in our community. The best example of this is our hotel’s 20 year partnership with Make-A-Wish of Southern Florida, in which the annual InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball raises millions of dollars for the organization each year.

    The partnership we have forged with the New American Workforce over the years has been a pillar of our commitment to people—the same people who are fueling our hotel’s success.

    Robert Hill is the General Manager of the InterContinental Miami hotel.

  • The U.S. Opens Its Doors, But Its Citizenry Welcomes Us In

    Teresita Wisell

    Teresita Wisell is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

    Over 50 years ago, my parents left their home in Cuba to start their lives again in the United States with their young family.  I was only a toddler at the time, but as I grew up, I joined countless conversations during which my parents voiced their appreciation for the welcoming spirit of the individuals who helped them become contributing citizens of their adopted country.  My parent’s courage and achievements have inspired me to “pay it forward”, and I am honored to be named a White House Champion of Change.

    Today, community colleges are strategically positioned to play a critical role in supporting the full integration of the thousands of immigrants that we serve every day.  Through community colleges, new Americans can gain access to higher education, workforce training and English as a Second Language programs.  Moreover, community colleges partner with local organizations, government, and businesses to create pipelines of education and services to the immigrant community that not only serve these individuals but enhance the workforce and support the local economy.

    In September 2010, after several years of research and planning, Westchester Community College opened its Gateway Center, a multi-use facility that houses several academic departments and workforce training initiatives.  The Gateway Center was established to serve as an educational resource to the increasingly diverse population of Westchester County, in which one in every four residents is foreign-born.  Shortly after opening, plans were underway to provide free citizenship education to our English language learners, their families, and members of the community.  In spring 2011, our Welcome Center began to offer these classes.  To date, over 250 individuals have taken the citizenship education classes. Of those who have taken classes, approximately 60% have taken the exam and 96% of those students have passed.  We are proud of our part in these achievements but want to do more!

    Last summer, the college became the National Immigration Forum’s first New York area partner in the New American Workforce project.  As such, we have extended our role in citizenship education to offer classes to our eligible employees and collaborate with our business partners to support their employees through work-based English language classes and citizenship preparation. Collaborations like these help support the fullest integration of our county’s residents and honor the contributions that immigrants make to our communities.

    My parents are examples of such efforts, made by individuals who recognized the value of supporting their new neighbors as they sought to become citizens of their adopted country.  It is in tribute to those countless “champions” that have come before us and to those “champions” with whom I have the privilege to work every day that I accept this White House Champion of Change award.

    Teresita Wisell is Vice President and Dean for continuing Education and Workforce Development at Westchester Community College, SUNY.