In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out his vision for winning our future. Part of accomplishing this important goal means fixing our nation’s broken immigration system. The President again reiterated his deep commitment to addressing this issue because it’s critical to strengthening our global competitiveness and boosting our economy. Last July, the President outlined his vision for commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability:
- Continue to make border security the responsibility and priority of the federal government,
- Hold accountable businesses that break the law by exploiting undocumented workers,
- Make those living in the United States illegally take responsibility for their actions, and
- Strengthen our economic competiveness by creating a legal immigration system that meets our diverse needs.
Over the last two years, the President has taken his responsibility to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders very seriously. This Administration dedicated unprecedented resources to secure our borders, implemented smarter, more strategic interior and worksite enforcement policies, and improved our legal immigration system.
These efforts have had real results. Our borders are more secure than ever. Apprehensions along the border reflect far fewer attempts to cross illegally while seizures of illegal currency, drugs, and guns are dramatically up – leading to increased criminal arrests and prosecutions. In FY 2010 the Administration increased the number of convicted criminals removed from our country by more than 23,000, which represents a more than 70 percent increase from the previous Administration.
Additionally, we have more than doubled the number of worksite enforcement investigations conducted in FY 2010 as compared to FY 2008. These investigations have led to millions of dollars of fines levied against employers who have violated immigration laws. We have also improved our legal immigration system by reducing backlogs of immigration applications and devoting critical funding to promote innovative citizenship preparation and integration programs in communities throughout the country.
We all benefit from the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that immigrants bring to our shores. Indeed, it has made us the engine of the global economy and a beacon of hope around the world. I was reminded of this last Independence Day when I had the honor of speaking at a naturalization ceremony right in the shadow of the Statute of Liberty on Ellis Island. We honored and celebrated 143 new citizens from 57 countries, each with their own unique story of how they came to America and what they have done to make it their home. Among the group were individuals who came to our country as young children, college students, working professionals, and victims of oppression.
In his State of the Union address, the President called on Republicans and Democrats to work with him on this critical issue. He acknowledged that the debate will not be easy, but the American people expect their leaders to come together to tackle the important issues confronting our nation. Winning the future and building a competitive America demands an immigration system that works.
We need comprehensive immigration reform that respects our nation’s laws while continuing our rich tradition as a nation of immigrants and that strengthens our efforts to secure our borders while allowing immigrants to contribute fully to our country and our economy. In the coming weeks, that’s the consensus the President and his Administration will seek to build.