News / USA

Obama Challenges Republicans on Immigration Reform

President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform at the Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011
President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform at the Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011

President Barack Obama used the backdrop of the U.S-Mexico border on Tuesday for a major speech amplifying his calls for bipartisan reform of U.S. immigration laws.  

Facing continuing opposition from congressional Republicans on how best to achieve comprehensive reform, Mr. Obama is trying to elevate the debate about finding a solution to what most agree is a broken immigration system.

On Tuesday, he traveled to El Paso, Texas, a major crossing point on the more than 3,100 -kilometer border with Mexico.  As in other southwest states, illegal immigration is a hot topic in Texas where the  percentage of the population  that is Hispanic increased by 43 percent over the past decade.

In remarks after touring a cargo facility at the Bridge of the Americas, Mr. Obama listed steps he has taken to strengthen border security and cut down on illegal crossings, and said his administration has answered concerns voiced by opposition Republicans.

"We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement," said President Obama. "All the stuff they asked for, we have done."

Watch a related report by Kent Klein:

Briefing reporters this week, senior administration officials detailed those steps, which include more than doubling the number of border patrol agents to 20,700,  and a plan to extend deployment of National Guard troops.

The administration has increased cooperation with Mexico in fighting drug cartel violence, intensified screening of rail and vehicle traffic, and nearly completed construction of a 1200 kilometer border fence.  Officials also point to increased illegal drug and weapons seizures, and a 36 percent drop in illegal immigration attempts.

In El Paso, Mr. Obama repeated his call for Republicans to join him in finding common ground to enable a bipartisan solution to immigration reform.

"So, the question is whether those in Congress who previously walked away in the name of enforcement are now ready to come back to the table and finish the work that we have started," said Obama. "We have got to put the politics aside, and if we do, I am confident we can find common ground."

Mr. Obama did not set out any timeline for crafting immigration legislation.  He offered broad policy brush strokes, including requiring illegal immigrants to pay a fine, learn English, undergo background checks and wait in line for legalization, and holding businesses accountable for exploiting undocumented workers.

The president still faces opposition from key congressional Republicans who assert that any comprehensive immigration bill should wait until the border is secure.

Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, both from the southwestern state of Arizona, have proposed a 10 point plan they assert would achieve more control of the border.  Among other things, it proposes to deploy at least 6,000 National guard troops and 5,000 additional border patrol agents.

Kyl spoke with reporters on Capitol Hill earlier in the day.

"I think almost everybody recognizes that until the border is secured, any hope of additional legislation dealing with the immigration problem is not likely to succeed in the Congress," said Senator Kyl.

In his remarks Tuesday, Mr. Obama also reiterated his goal of achieving passage of the DREAM Act.  That legislation, which would allow undocumented youths to obtain legal residence status under specific conditions, was blocked in Congress.

President Obama's Texas remarks were the latest piece of what the White House intends to be an intensifying campaign on immigration reform, ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

It provided an opportunity for Mr. Obama to speak about the politically and economically significant immigration issue where it is of most intense concern, and appeal to Hispanic voters.

In the 2008 presidential election, Mr. Obama won the national Hispanic vote with 67 percent.  He lost Texas, a Republican stronghold, to Senator John McCain by a 10 percent margin.  

The president's day in Texas also included appearances at two Democratic Party fundraising events in Austin.  Later this week, Mr. Obama continues his outreach to the nation's Hispanics when he appears at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in the nation's capital.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs