President Barack Obama urged Americans on Tuesday to help him push Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform a divisive issue that lawmakers have been unwilling to take up in recent years.
Coachella Valley residents on both sides of the immigration reform debate agreed the president's speech was motivated by politics but disagreed on whether the nation is ready for reform.
I am asking you to add your voices to this debate, Obama said near the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas. We need Washington to know that there is a movement for reform gathering strength from coast to coast. That's how we'll get this done.
The president said reform should include efforts to secure the border; crack down on businesses that exploit undocumented workers; and require the nearly 11 million immigrants in this country illegally to pay fines and back taxes, learn English and undergo background checks before they can apply for legal status.
He also said American farmers need a legal way to hire immigrant workers.
Children of illegal aliens should be allowed to become U.S. citizens if they go to college or join the U.S. military, Obama said. He said he will continue to support DREAM Act legislation, as it's known, aimed at helping those young immigrants. The full name is Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.
Residents of the eastern Coachella Valley have long been fighting the good fight to speed up the process for otherwise law-abiding, tax-paying residents to earn legal status, said Carlos Gonzales, vice chairman of the Raices (Roots), a Coachella-based group that pushes for equal rights.
Folks are pretty anxious to know when Barack is finally going to put this promise in front, he said. I think this is a first wave of doing that.
It is more important than ever now with the threat of terrorist retaliation after Osama bin Laden's death to abolish the hidden communities of fearful illegal immigrants, said Karan Kler, executive director of Coachella Valley Immigration Service and Assistance.
It's about time we come together and deal with the issues we have in our own homeland, Kler said.
The latest push for immigration reform is nothing more than a political move to create a new Democratic voting base in time to re-elect Obama, contends Christina Michas, founder of Palm Springs Patriots Coalition Desert Valley Tea Party.
Obama received more than 65 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008.
Michas said she wants to see the federal government close borders completely and then discuss what to do about immigrants who are here illegally.
Does everybody keep forgetting they're illegal? she said. You can call it whatever you want; it's amnesty.
We have no money to give anybody free anything. We have no money to give anybody free amnesty. We can't afford to do this.
Bob Richmond, a Palm Springs resident and former county GOP chairman, laughed when he heard that Obama declared the border as secure as ever.
He doubts Obama will take action on immigration reform and chalked up the speech to political pandering.
If he really wanted to do something, he would have done it like he said he was going to do the very first year in office, Richmond said.
Critics said the president knows reform efforts are going nowhere in a politically divided Congress.
President Obama's immigration speech today was driven by politics and politics alone, said Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz. Instead of real solutions and reforms, the president offered finger-pointing and spin.
Supporters lauded Obama.
I'm pleased the president laid out a blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform that tackles the problem from all fronts, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
The president said it is time for Republicans to return to the negotiating table instead of calling for more border security measures.
Republicans say the border must be enforced before anything else changes.
Obama touted his administration's efforts to secure the Southwest border by increasing the number of Border Patrol agents to about 20,000, deploying unmanned surveillance aircraft from Texas to California, and forging new alliances with Mexico.
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, Obama said.
But members of Congress from Southwest border states said their call for more security measures is based on real dangers faced by their constituents amid escalating violence by Mexican drug cartels.
Instead of pushing for comprehensive reform, Obama should endorse a $4 billion bill to put 6,000 National Guard troops and 5,000 more Border Patrol agents on the border, said Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, co-sponsors of the Border Security Enforcement Act. They cited a recent report by the Government Accountability Office that found the U.S. has operational control of only 44 percent of the southwest border.
Desert Sun reporter Kate McGinty contributed to this report.
What does this mean to us (foreign nurses)?
This means the immigration reform would take some step toward to any kinds of aliens.
Go go go go!!!!!!
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