Immigration reform still on the agenda
Given Congress’s failure to pass the DREAM Act in the lame duck session, it was pleasing and surprising to hear President Obama broach the issue of immigration in the State of the Union:
One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.
Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. (Applause.) I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation. (Applause.)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who has at times been an outspoken critic of the administration’s approach to immigration reform, responded on The Hill’s Congress blog this morning:
It is no secret that I am always pushing him to do more to address the issue, but by including immigration in the speech, it makes it clear that the President knows it is not an issue that can be ignored or a problem that will resolve itself without his consistent and persistent attention.
After the heartbreaking defeat of the DREAM Act, one can be forgiven for being less than optimistic about immigration reform’s political prospects in the near future. But a mention in the State of the Union at the very least signals that the faith community’s effort to keep the issue on the agenda when politicians wanted to sweep it under the rug has made a difference. Here’s the video: