WASHINGTON DC, United States?US President Obama called for bipartisan support for a comprehensive approach to fix the country's "fundamentally flawed" immigration system by holding government, businesses, and the immigrants accountable.
Stressing that now is the time to move forward and do away with "patchwork" that failed to work before, Obama said stemming the flow of illegal immigration should go hand-in-hand with "reforming our creaky system of legal immigration" by eliminating backlog that often take years or even decades for families to join loved ones in the United States.
Obama said it is government's "threshold responsibility" to secure the nation's porous borders even before the passage of a new law, adding that his administration is doing that.
"Today, we have more boots on the ground near the Southwest border than at any time in our history," he said in his first major speech on immigration reform at the American University. "We doubled the personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces. We tripled the number of intelligence analysts along the border."
As a result, the President said statistics collected by Customs and Border Protection reflect a significant reduction in the number of people trying to cross the border illegally.
To stem the entry of illegal immigrants in search of better economic opportunities, Obama said businesses and industries should do their share by not hiring illegal workers who settle for lower wages which in turn tend to push down wages of American workers.
"That?s why businesses must be held accountable if they break the law by deliberately hiring and exploiting undocumented workers. We?ve already begun to step up enforcement against the worst workplace offenders," he said.
Moreover, he said the government is implementing and improving a system to give employers a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.
But we need to do more, Obama, as he warned that Washington cannot continue just to look the other way while a significant portion of the US economy operates outside the law.
"It breeds abuse and bad practices. It punishes employers who act responsibly and undercuts American workers. And ultimately, if the demand for undocumented workers falls, the incentive for people to come here illegally will decline as well," the President stressed.
Obama, who envisaged a route for legal status for the undocumented immigrants already here, said they must be held accountable as well by requiring them to admit they broke the law, pay a fine and back taxes, and learn English in order for them to be assimilated in the mainstream.
"They must get right with the law before they can get in line and earn their citizenship... because this is how we demonstrate what being an American means," he said.
In pushing for meaningful reform, Obama stressed the fact that the constant flow of immigrants is what has helped make America the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth.
"The scientific breakthroughs of Albert Einstein, the inventions of Nikola Tesla, the great ventures of Andrew Carnegie?s US Steel, and Sergey Brin?s Google Inc.?all this was possible because of immigrants," he said
"And then there are the countless names and the quiet acts that never made the history books but were no less consequential in building this country...the millions of people, ancestors to most of us, who believed that there was a place where they could be, at long last, free to work and worship and live their lives in peace."
To this day, he said, America remains a magnet for the best and the brightest from across the globe, who are attracted by a culture of entrepreneurship and ingenuity that ultimately strengthen and enrich American culture.
"Immigration also means we have a younger workforce?and a faster-growing economy?than many of our competitors. And in an increasingly interconnected world, the diversity of our country is a powerful advantage in global competition," Obama added.
He said various sectors, including business and organized labor, immigrant advocates, community organizations, and local government have expressed support for immediate immigration reform.
Big business, represented by captains of industry Rupert Murdoch and incumbent New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, last week openly lobbied for comprehensive reform through a coalition called Partnership for a New American Economy.
"I think we can show to the public the benefits of having migrants and the jobs that go with them," said Murdoch said in a television interview.
Bloomberg, the billionaire former CEO of Bloomberg LP, a financial information company, warned that it would be "economic suicide" to resort to mass deportation of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants as proposed by a few ultra-conservative legislators.
Stressing that immigration reform is not as partisan as opponents paint it to be, Bloomberg said what is needed is sober and intelligent discussion of the issues.
"Somebody has to lead and explain to the country why it is in the country?s best interest to have comprehensive immigration reform," Bloomberg said.
Even some reform advocates acknowledge that prospects for passage of comprehensive immigration legislation look bleak this election year, as even some Democrats are wary of wading into the hot-button debate.
But Obama, who pledged as a candidate to make immigration reform a top priority during his first year in office, faces pressure from his supporters to act?or, at least, get the reform process going.
Obama said Washington's inaction on the immigration reform issue has forced some local government, like Arizona, to take matters into their own hands.
Arizaona recently passed a controversial state law that requires police officers to question a person's immigration status if there's reason to suspect the person is in the country illegally.
Obama has called the law "misguided" and asked the Justice Department to examine its legality.
Reform advocates believe that the Justice Department will sue to overturn the law, but Obama told them in a meeting Monday that he would leave such a decision to the department.From FilAm Star