On May 5, 2010, President Obama held a Cinco de Mayo Reception to celebrate Latino culture in America. He used the opportunity to voice his concerns regarding Arizona’s recently enacted immigration law and, more generally, to discuss comprehensive immigration reform. In his remarks, the President signaled the need for comprehensive immigration reform and his desire to begin work on such reforms this year. He also made his disapproval of Arizona immigration law clear, stating “the answer isn’t to undermine fundamental principles that define us as a nation. We can’t start singling out people because of who they look like, or how they talk, or how they dress. We can’t turn law-abiding American citizens — and law-abiding immigrants — into subjects of suspicion and abuse.” The President is undoubtedly sensitive to the racial profiling and discrimination that will inevitably stem from the enforcement of Arizona’s new law.
Though it may comfort some to know the Administration will be closely monitoring Arizona’s law, and evaluating the civil rights and other implications it may have, the only solution in the end will be comprehensive immigration reform. Comprehensive immigration reform, as noted by President Obama, will be difficult, especially because it will require bipartisan support which has not been easy to come by as of late. Regardless, it is the only solution that will “close the door on [the] kind of misconceived action” that we recently witnessed in Arizona.
In his speech, President Obama called for “common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform.” He did not provide many details regarding his vision for comprehensive immigration reform, but what he did say was enlightening nonetheless. The President predictably spoke out in favor of securing our borders and holding businesses accountable for “undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers.” The most interesting comment, though, was what the President said regarding illegal immigration. Specifically, the President stated that people who are living illegally in the U.S. should “admit that they broke the law, and pay taxes, and pay a penalty, and learn English, and get right before the law — and then get in line and earn their citizenship.”
In one very carefully crafted yet informative sentence, the President laid out his proposal for how to handle the current population of people living in the United States illegally. Though he never used the word amnesty, the President appears to be endorsing a program that would ultimately allow undocumented foreign nationals to earn U.S. citizenship. The problem of illegal immigration is one of the greatest challenges facing comprehensive immigration reform and it is encouraging to know the President has a realistic and constructive solution to the problem. Before comprehensive immigration reform can be debated in Congress, however, a proposal must first be put forth. No bill has been introduced, but the Senate Democrats have developed a conceptual proposal for immigration reform. The introduction of the Senate Democrats’ immigration reform plan is the first measure in what will surely become the next hotly debated issue of the Obama Administration and, needless to say, the world and history will be watching closely as the debate unfolds.