News / USA

Obama: 'Begin' Immigration Reform This Year

President Barack Obama says he wants the U.S. Congress to make progress this year on reforming the U.S. immigration system.  Mr. Obama spoke about the issue during an event marking Cinco de Mayo,  the annual observance in the U.S., Mexico and other parts of the world of Mexican cultural heritage and pride:

After his success in getting the Congress to approve major health care reform legislation,  the president has been working on other key domestic priorities, notably the difficult objective of reforming U.S. immigration laws.

Whether immigration reform has any chance of passing in the current divisive atmosphere on Capitol Hill remains to be seen, as Democrats assess what legislation they can expect to reasonably move in this mid-term congressional election year.

In recent remarks to reporters, the president called immigration a difficult issue and a matter of political will, saying he and majority Democrats would need help from Republicans to pass a bill.

At the Cinco de Mayo observance at the White House, he sought to re-clarify his position on prospects for reform, saying he wants progress this year.

"I want to begin work this year, and I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me," said President Obama.

With about six months to go before the 2010 mid-term elections, it's clear any effort to get immigration reform passed will have to originate in the U.S. Senate.

Last week, Democrats there unveiled what they call a conceptual proposal for reform, including such things as tougher border controls, and a path to citizenship for the approximately 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Calling the immigration system badly broken, with dysfunctional outcomes for millions of people and the U.S. economy, New York  Senator Charles Schumer joined other Democratic leaders in urging Republicans to get on board.

"We are asking our Republican colleagues to come join with us in this difficult work.  The time for talking points is over," said Schumer.  "We know we cannot pass comprehensive reform unless it is bipartisan."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said any hope for progress will require the president to exert maximum political leadership.

"As I said when President Bush was president, and I say when President Obama is president, if there is going to be any movement in this regard, it will require presidential leadership, as well as an appetite, as well as a willingness to move forward in the Congress," said Pelosi.

Now front and center in the immigratioon debate is the controversial law in Arizona requiring non-citizens to carry documents proving their legal status, and authorizing police to question individuals suspected of lacking documentation.

Repeating his criticism of the Arizona law, the president said the answer on immigration is not to undermine fundamental principles that define America:

"We can't start singling out people because of who they look like or how they talk or how they dress," said Mr. Obama.  "We can't turn law-biding American citizens and law-biding  immigrants into subjects of suspicion and abuse.  We can't divide the American people that way, that's not the answer, that's not who we are as the United States of America."

Before the president spoke, divisions over the Arizona law were heard again in Congress.   In the House of Representatives, California Democrat Joe Baca, and Texas Republican Lamar Smith offered these opposing views.

Baca:  This unconstitutional law [in Arizona] is inspired by racism [and] it will lead to racial profiling of Hispanics and people of color.

Smith:  Maybe from a New York City skyscraper it's hard to see the border violence, the human smuggling, the drug trafficking, the lost jobs and the crowded schools, much of it caused by those who break our immigration laws."

As President Obama continues his outreach to Republicans whose support might help move the process ahead, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had this assessment of chances for gaining significant Republican support:

"I don't know the degree to which there are at least in the Senate there are a tremendous number of right now, Republican sponsors for that legislation," said Gibbs.

In the audience for President Obama's remarks were Hispanic members of Congress and the president's cabinet, along with Mexico's Ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan,  and Mexico's Secretary of the Interior.

President Obama looked ahead to the upcoming state visit of Mexico's president Felipe Calderon and his wife, scheduled to be at the White House in two weeks.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs