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← Watch: President Obama announces sweeping immigration reform

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Showing Revision 3 created 11/21/2014 by Claude Almansi.

  1. My fellow Americans,
  2. tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.
  3. For more than 200 years,
  4. our tradition of welcoming immigrants
    from around the world
  5. has given us a tremendous advantage
    over other nations.
  6. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic,
    and entrepreneurial.
  7. It has shaped our character
    as a people with limitless possibilities,
  8. people not trapped by our past,
    but able to remake ourselves as we choose.
  9. But today, our immigration system
    is broken
  10. and everybody knows it.
  11. Families who enter our country
    the right way and play by the rules
  12. watch others flout the rules.
  13. Business owners who offer their workers
    good wages and benefits
  14. see the competition exploit
    undocumented immigrants
  15. by paying them far less.
  16. All of us take offense to anyone who
    reaps the rewards of living in America
  17. without taking on the responsibilities
    of living in America.
  18. And undocumented immigrants
  19. who desperately want to embrace
    those responsibilities
  20. see little option but to remain
    in the shadows,
  21. or risk their families being torn apart.
  22. It’s been this way for decades.
  23. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.
  24. When I took office,
  25. I committed to fixing
    this broken immigration system.
  26. And I began by doing what I could
    to secure our borders.
  27. Today, we have more agents and technology
    deployed to secure our southern border
  28. than at any time in our history.
  29. And over the past six years,
  30. illegal border crossings
    have been cut by more than half.
  31. Although this summer, there was a brief spike
  32. in unaccompanied children
    being apprehended at our border,
  33. the number of such children
    is now actually lower
  34. than it’s been in nearly two years.
  35. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally
  36. is at its lowest level since the 1970s.
  37. Those are the facts.
  38. Meanwhile, I worked with Congress
    on a comprehensive fix,
  39. and last year, 68 Democrats,
    Republicans, and independents
  40. came together to pass
    a bipartisan bill in the Senate.
  41. It wasn’t perfect.
  42. It was a compromise.
  43. But it reflected common sense.
  44. It would have doubled the number
    of border patrol agents
  45. while giving undocumented immigrants
    a pathway to citizenship
  46. if they paid a fine,
    started paying their taxes,
  47. and went to the back of the line.
  48. And independent experts said
    that it would help
  49. grow our economy and shrink our deficits.
  50. Had the House of Representatives
    allowed that kind of bill
  51. a simple yes-or-no vote,
  52. it would have passed with support
    from both parties,
  53. and today it would be the law.
  54. But for a year and a half now,
  55. Republican leaders in the House
  56. have refused to allow that simple vote.
  57. Now, I continue to believe
    that the best way to solve this problem
  58. is by working together to pass
    that kind of common sense law.
  59. But until that happens,
  60. there are actions I have
    the legal authority to take as President
  61. -- the same kinds of actions taken
  62. by Democratic and Republican
    presidents before me --
  63. that will help make our immigration
    system more fair and more just.
  64. Tonight, I am announcing those actions.
  65. First, we’ll build on our progress
    at the border
  66. with additional resources
    for our law enforcement personnel
  67. so that they can stem
    the flow of illegal crossings,
  68. and speed the return
    of those who do cross over.
  69. Second, I’ll make it easier and faster
    for high-skilled immigrants,
  70. graduates, and entrepreneurs
    to stay and contribute to our economy,
  71. as so many business leaders have proposed.
  72. Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly
  73. with the millions
    of undocumented immigrants
  74. who already live in our country.
  75. I want to say more about this third issue,
  76. because it generates
    the most passion and controversy.
  77. Even as we are a nation of immigrants,
    we’re also a nation of laws.
  78. Undocumented workers
    broke our immigration laws,
  79. and I believe that they must
    be held accountable,
  80. especially those who may be dangerous.
  81. That’s why, over the past six years,
  82. deportations of criminals
    are up 80 percent.
  83. And that’s why we’re going to keep
    focusing enforcement resources
  84. on actual threats to our security.
  85. Felons, not families.
  86. Criminals, not children.
  87. Gang members,
  88. not a mom who’s working hard
    to provide for her kids.
  89. We’ll prioritize, just like
    law enforcement does every day.
  90. But even as we focus
    on deporting criminals,
  91. the fact is,
    millions of immigrants in every state,
  92. of every race and nationality
  93. still live here illegally.
  94. And let’s be honest:
  95. tracking down, rounding up,
  96. and deporting millions of people
    isn’t realistic.
  97. Anyone who suggests otherwise
    isn’t being straight with you.
  98. It’s also not who we are as Americans.
  99. After all, most of these immigrants
    have been here a long time.
  100. They work hard, often in tough,
    low-paying jobs.
  101. They support their families.
  102. They worship at our churches.
  103. Many of their kids are American-born
    or spent most of their lives here,
  104. and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism
    are just like ours.
  105. As my predecessor, President Bush,
    once put it:
  106. “They are a part of American life.”
  107. Now here’s the thing:
  108. We expect people who live in this country
    to play by the rules.
  109. We expect that those who cut the line
    will not be unfairly rewarded.
  110. So we’re going to offer
    the following deal:
  111. If you’ve been in America
    for more than five years;
  112. if you have children who are
    American citizens or legal residents;
  113. if you register,
    pass a criminal background check,
  114. and you’re willing to pay
    your fair share of taxes,
  115. you’ll be able to apply to stay
    in this country temporarily
  116. without fear of deportation.
  117. You can come out of the shadows
    and get right with the law.
  118. That’s what this deal is.
  119. Now, let’s be clear about what it isn’t.
  120. This deal does not apply to anyone
    who has come to this country recently.
  121. It does not apply to anyone who might
    come to America illegally in the future.
  122. It does not grant citizenship,
  123. or the right to stay here permanently,
  124. or offer the same benefits
    that citizens receive.
  125. Only Congress can do that.
  126. All we’re saying is
    we’re not going to deport you.
  127. I know some of the critics
    of this action call it amnesty.
  128. Well, it’s not.
  129. Amnesty is the immigration system
    we have today:
  130. millions of people
    who live here without paying their taxes
  131. or playing by the rules
  132. while politicians use the issue
    to scare people
  133. and whip up votes at election time.
  134. That’s the real amnesty:
  135. leaving this broken system the way it is.
  136. Mass amnesty would be unfair.
  137. Mass deportation would be both impossible
    and contrary to our character.
  138. What I’m describing is accountability,
  139. a common-sense, middle-ground approach:
  140. If you meet the criteria,
    you can come out of the shadows
  141. and get right with the law.
  142. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported.
  143. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally,
  144. your chances of getting caught
    and sent back just went up.
  145. The actions I’m taking
    are not only lawful,
  146. they’re the kinds of actions taken by
  147. every single Republican President
    and every single Democratic President
  148. for the past half century.
  149. And to those members of Congress
    who question my authority
  150. to make our immigration system
    work better,
  151. or question the wisdom
    of me acting where Congress has failed,
  152. I have one answer: Pass a bill.
  153. I want to work with both parties
  154. to pass a more permanent
    legislative solution.
  155. And the day I sign that bill into law,
  156. the actions I take will
    no longer be necessary.
  157. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement
    over a single issue
  158. be a dealbreaker on every issue.
  159. That’s not how our democracy works,
  160. and Congress certainly shouldn’t
    shut down our government again
  161. just because we disagree on this.
  162. Americans are tired of gridlock.
  163. What our country needs from us right now
    is a common purpose,
  164. a higher purpose.
  165. Most Americans support the types of
    reforms I’ve talked about tonight.
  166. But I understand the disagreements
    held by many of you at home.
  167. Millions of us, myself included,
    go back generations in this country,
  168. with ancestors who put in
    the painstaking work to become citizens.
  169. So we don’t like the notion that
  170. anyone might get a free pass
    to American citizenship.
  171. I know some worry immigration will change
    the very fabric of who we are,
  172. or take our jobs,
    or stick it to middle-class families
  173. at a time when they already feel like
  174. they’ve gotten the raw deal
    for over a decade.
  175. I hear these concerns.
  176. But that’s not what these steps would do.
  177. Our history and the facts show
    that immigrants are a net plus
  178. for our economy and our society.
  179. And I believe it’s important
    that all of us have this debate
  180. without impugning each other’s character.
  181. Because for all the back and forth
    of Washington,
  182. we have to remember that this debate
    is about something bigger.
  183. It’s about who we are as a country,
  184. and who we want to be
    for future generations.
  185. Are we a nation that tolerates
    the hypocrisy of a system
  186. where workers who pick our fruit
    and make our beds
  187. never have a chance
    to get right with the law?
  188. Or are we a nation that gives them
    a chance to make amends,
  189. take responsibility,
    and give their kids a better future?
  190. Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty
  191. of ripping children
    from their parents’ arms?
  192. Or are we a nation that values families,
    and works together to keep them together?
  193. Are we a nation that educates the world’s
    best and brightest in our universities,
  194. only to send them home
    to create businesses
  195. in countries that compete against us?
  196. Or are we a nation
    that encourages them to stay
  197. and create jobs here,
    create businesses here,
  198. create industries right here in America?
  199. That’s what this debate is all about.
  200. We need more than politics as usual
    when it comes to immigration.
  201. We need reasoned, thoughtful,
    compassionate debate
  202. that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.
  203. I know the politics
    of this issue are tough.
  204. But let me tell you why I have come
    to feel so strongly about it.
  205. Over the past years, I have seen
    the determination of immigrant fathers
  206. who worked two or three jobs without
    taking a dime from the government,
  207. and at risk any moment of losing it all,
    just to build a better life for their kids.
  208. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety
    of children
  209. whose mothers might be
    taken away from them
  210. just because they didn’t have
    the right papers.
  211. I’ve seen the courage of students who,
  212. except for the circumstances
    of their birth,
  213. are as American as Malia or Sasha;
  214. students who bravely
    come out as undocumented
  215. in hopes they could make a difference
    in the country they love.
  216. These people -- our neighbors,
    our classmates, our friends --
  217. they did not come here in search
    of a free ride or an easy life.
  218. They came to work, and study,
    and serve in our military,
  219. and above all,
    contribute to America’s success.
  220. Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas
    and meet with some of these students,
  221. including a young woman
    named Astrid Silva.
  222. Astrid was brought to America
    when she was four years old.
  223. Her only possessions were
    a cross, her doll,
  224. and the frilly dress she had on.
  225. When she started school,
    she didn’t speak any English.
  226. She caught up to other kids by reading
    newspapers and watching PBS.
  227. And she became a good student.
  228. Her father worked in landscaping.
  229. Her mom cleaned other people’s homes.
  230. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply
    to a technology magnet school,
  231. not because they didn’t love her,
    but because they were afraid
  232. the paperwork would out her
    as an undocumented immigrant.
  233. So she applied behind their back
    and got in.
  234. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows
  235. until her grandmother, who visited
    every year from Mexico, passed away,
  236. and she couldn’t travel to the funeral
  237. without risk of being found out
    and deported.
  238. It was around that time
    she decided to begin advocating
  239. for herself and others like her,
  240. and today, Astrid Silva is a college
    student working on her third degree.
  241. Are we a nation that kicks out
    a striving, hopeful immigrant
  242. like Astrid, or are we a nation
    that finds a way to welcome her in?
  243. Scripture tells us
    that we shall not oppress a stranger,
  244. for we know the heart of a stranger,
  245. we were strangers once, too.
  246. My fellow Americans, we are and always
    will be a nation of immigrants.
  247. We were strangers once, too.
  248. And whether our forebears
    were strangers who crossed
  249. the Atlantic, or the Pacific,
    or the Rio Grande,
  250. we are here only because
    this country welcomed them in,
  251. and taught them that to be an American
    is about something more
  252. than what we look like, or what
    our last names are, or how we worship.
  253. What makes us Americans
    is our shared commitment to an ideal:
  254. that all of us are created equal,
  255. and all of us have the chance
    to make of our lives what we will.
  256. That’s the country
    our parents and grandparents
  257. and generations before them built for us.
  258. That’s the tradition we must uphold.
  259. That’s the legacy we must leave
    for those who are yet to come.
  260. Thank you. God bless you.
  261. And God bless this country we love.