What Obama Didn't Address: The Looming Immigration Debate
Credit: Whitehouse.gov. A screenshot from press conference, Obama addressing what immigration reform might look like.
January 14, 2013

During the last press conference of his first term, President Barack Obama did not address the looming immigration debate. This despite the fact that many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are eager to propose reforms to appease their growing Latino voter base at home. In November, the president addressed the four main points comprehensive immigration reform should have. Lets look at those points and how they changed since then.

Border security

In November, Obama said comprehensive immigration reform “should include a continuation of the strong border security measures we’ve taken.”

What’s happening now?

Last fiscal year, the United States spent $18 billion on immigration and port security. That was more than drug enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI combined.

A Government Accountability report says the Homeland Security Department doesn’t have a plan to maintain integrity among its agents.

The Homeland Security Department has spent nearly a half billion dollars to provide modern, secure radios to its agents and employees. But the Office of Inspector General has found that most agents haven’t been shown how to use them.

The Department of Homeland Security examining the patrol’s use of force policies

Apply strict penalties to companies who hire undocumented workers

In November, Obama said comprehensive immigration reform "should contain serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring undocumented workers and taking advantage of them.”

What’s happening now?

San Diego restaurant owner fined $400,000 for employing undocumented workers

California and Federal government disagree about E-Verify

Pathway to legal immigration

In November, Obama said “There should be a pathway for legal status for those who are living in this country, are not engaged in criminal activity and are here simply to work. It’s important for them to pay back taxes, important for them to learn English, important for them to potentially pay a fine. But to give them the avenue whereby they can resolve their legal status.”

What’s happening now?

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez wants to repeal a 2003 law that allows illegal immigrants to get a driver's license. The law is one of three in the nation. The Illinois House just passed a similar measure, which awaits signature from the governor.

In Arizona’s most populous county, a battle is unfolding in the courts over unauthorized immigrants who get hired for work by using fraudulent Social Security Numbers and documents. Law enforcement has been cracking down, but now some defense attorneys are questioning their authority to do so.

In Mexico, people without a birth certificate can't get a school diploma, can't vote or legally marry, among many other things. When people in that situation immigrate illegally to the United States, suddenly they are doubly undocumented, invisible in two countries.

Making DACA Law

In November, Obama said “Young people who are brought here through no fault of their own. Who have gone to school here, pledged allegiance to our flag, want to serve in our military, want to go to school and contribute to our society that they shouldn’t be under the cloud of deportation. ”

What’s happening now?

The United States detained the mother of a prominent DREAM Act activist in Arizona, and nearly deported her. The detention raises questions about just who the government chooses to deport and why.

DREAMers who were eligible for DACA are cautious to sign up in fear of what would happen if the act was not passed into law.

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