The following is a statement from Angela M. Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress, on President Barack Obama’s speech in El Paso, Texas today outlining his vision for immigration reform:
We strongly applaud President Barack Obama for reclaiming the initiative on immigration today with his speech in El Paso, Texas. His willingness to lead the charge for comprehensive immigration reform will help ensure the safety and prosperity of all Americans. We urge Congress to embrace the president’s call to action and rise above the partisan bickering that has obscured the value of America’s newcomers and obstructed a path to effective reform.
Over the past two years the Obama administration has taken extraordinary steps to ensure that the border is more secure and America’s border cities are safer. To cite a few statistics, the number of Border Patrol agents has doubled since 2004 and the number of intelligence assets tasked to the border has tripled.
These efforts are paying off: Apprehensions of border crossers are down as much as 40 percent. And despite often hysterical claims to the contrary, the FBI reports that crime in the Southwest United States has dropped by a third, and border cities such as El Paso are among the safest big cities in the country.
The president also recognized immigrants for their ingenuity and immense economic contributions. Beyond Albert Einstein, Andrew Carnegie, and others the president singled out, immigrants as a whole contribute powerfully to the American economy. Moreover, their economic contributions could be turbo-charged by requiring them to register for legal status. A rigorous pathway to legal status for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States would add a cumulative $1.5 trillion in gross domestic product over the next 10 years.
We know the road to passing legislation will be a tough one. Congressional Republicans’ myopic calls for enforcement “only and always” will not solve the problem. The president referred to those in Congress that continue to move the goal posts on security in an effort to stymie real progress toward solving our nation’s immigration dilemmas.
But we cannot simply enforce our way out of the problem. Comprehensive immigration reform—including requiring undocumented immigrants to register, pay taxes, and learn English—will strengthen our economy and help secure our borders. Conversely, the mass deportation of all those in the country without status, as some in Congress have called for, would shrink our economy by a cumulative $2.6 trillion over 10 years.
The president today laid out a blueprint for comprehensive reform, including facilitating job and business creation, ending the needless separation of families, and holding those who exploit workers accountable. His plan is good policy for the border andfor the economy, and it’s good politics. We hope that both Democrats and Republicans will heed the president’s call to rise above partisan politics and do what’s best for America.
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