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President Obama ties immigration reform to economic recovery

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

In his first State of the Union speech after the defeat of the Dream Act, President Obama linked reviving immigration reform to breathing life back into the country's downtrodden economy, noting that such an effort would not happen overnight.

     "[...] [L]et's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation," President Obama said.

With a bipartisan-inspired plea to reach an agreement on the matter, the President's remarks on the issue came in a speech mostly devoted to revitalizing the country's infrastructure and encouraging innovation in a nation that he said could outcompete every one else.

     "Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows," President Obama said.

As some immigration reform activists supporting the Dream Act in the past have targeted Republican candidates, the Reform Immigration for America grassroots movement is now targeting Congressmen like Lamar Smith of Texas on their online blog. The Congressman is currently chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the House Immigration Subcommittee on Immigration under California Congressman Elton Gallegly.

     "President Obama used the State of the Union address to call Congress on both sides of the aisle to work together to address our broken immigration system. Let's be sure Congress got the message," the group posted on the same page on which they have a picture of the Republican Congressman Smith.

The group has said that they intend to watch him.

Alfonso Aguilar, who serves as executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, criticized the President's comments as being hollow words without action, implying that it's merely a bone to throw at Latinos. He believes that the President's first two years in office demonstrate a lack of leadership on the issue, especially since the President had control of both Houses of Congress until this year.

     "The problem with the president's rhetoric is that it doesn't match his actions. For the past two years he has basically ignored the immigration issue, even though he has promised the Latino community that he would tackle this issue the first year of his administration. Just consider that in last year's State of the Union he said the same thing he said now and he did nothing to seriously address the issue," Aguilar said in an op-ed the day after the address.

In last year's State of the Union address, President Obama said that he would work with Congress to:

      "continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system--to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation."

Another year later, some immigration reform activists are disappointed in the President's response to the issue, the Pasadena Star-News reports.

What's even more significant about the President's immigration comments this time around is the context in which they come. Currently, California is one of 20 states whose legislature is likely to vote on an immigration law similar to Arizona's that was introduced last year. The California bill introduced by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of California's 59th district would grant police the power to check immigration status and would require that those within the state provide proper documentation showing their legal status.  

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