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President Pushes DREAM, Stem Immigration Reform in State of the Union

posted Jan 26, 2011, 3:43 PM by Sumiyia Jafri   [ updated Jan 26, 2011, 3:46 PM ]
by Greg Siskind. 

Here's what the POTUS had to say:

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 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. 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. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.

A couple of thoughts. I've always felt that the best way to achieve immigration legislation is not to try and evoke sympathy for the immigrant or to somehow say that the proposed beneficiaries of reform somehow deserve a break. The better strategy is to stress why it is in the interest of Americans to support a measure. The President did that by making it clear that we are investing in both groups - foreign students and potential DREAM Act beneficiaries - and when we force them to leave the country, we are throwing that investment down the drain.

I also found it significant that the President did not speak of comprehensive immigration reform. Instead, he mentioned two smaller measures that probably could be achieved. I think this probably marks the official end of the failed comprehensive immigration reform strategy. It was a great idea - put everything in one package that would deal with all aspects of the flawed system and bring on allies supporting a range of pieces of the bill in order to form a more powerful coalition. Unfortunately, it made it easier for anti-immigration groups to fight the bill as there was just one target. And it has meant that no positive immigration legislation has passed in the seven years since the legislative strategy was introduced.

Now we return to piecemeal legislating. Smaller bills that make incremental changes and hopefully we can move the system in a way that evolves toward something that makes sense for the country.

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