OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:
March 12, 2015
March 12, 2015
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 12, 2015
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Source: WH, 12-9-14
2:26 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT:Thank you, everybody.Thank you.(Applause.)Thank you so much.Everybody, please have a seat.Thank you very much.Everybody, please have a seat, have a seat.
Well, hello, Nashville.
THE PRESIDENT:Hola.Cómo estás?
AUDIENCE MEMBER:Bien, bien.
THE PRESIDENT:Bien.Thank you, Renata, for the wonderful introduction.I’ve brought some friends with me who I think you may know — your Congressmen, Jim Cooper — (applause) — as well as Congressman Steve Cohen from Memphis is here.(Applause.)And I want to thank — is your mayor still here?Where did he go?There he is right there, doing a great job.(Applause.)And his wonderful daughter — we’ve got to brag about her, she’s a junior at Barnard.I just embarrassed her.(Applause.)When you’re the father of daughters, your job is to embarrass them, and I’m trying to give an assist here.(Laughter.)
I want to thank Casa Azafran for hosting us, and for being home to so many organizations that do important work welcoming immigrants to the community.And that’s why I’ve come here today.I won’t make a long speech, because I want to have a dialogue, but I wanted to give some remarks at the top.
As Renata mentioned, some people might think Nashville was an odd place to talk immigration.It’s not what comes to mind when people think about gateways to America.But, as all of you know, Nashville’s got one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the country.“New Nashvillians” — they’re from Somalia, Nepal, Laos, Mexico, Bangladesh.And Nashville happens to be the home of the largest Kurdish community in the United States as well.
“They” are “us.”They work as teachers in our schools, doctors in our hospitals, police officers in our neighborhoods.They start small businesses at a faster rate than many native-born Americans.They create jobs making this city more prosperous, and a more innovative place.And of course, they make the food better.(Laughter.)I know that Tennessee barbeque is pretty popular, but Korean barbeque is pretty good too.(Laughter.)
And the point is, welcoming immigrants into your community benefits all of us.And I was talking to your Mayor, Karl Dean, on the way over here, and he understands this.He’s been a great partner when it comes to preparing immigrants to become citizens.
A couple of weeks ago, I create a Task Force on New Americans that’s going to help do this kind of work all across the country.But, as we all know, our immigration system has been broken for a long time.Families who come here the right way can get stuck in line for years.Business owners who treat their workers right sometimes are undercut by competition from folks who are not just hiring undocumented workers but then underpaying them or not paying them minimum wage, or not giving them the benefits that they have earned.Nobody likes the idea of somebody reaping the rewards of living in America without its responsibilities as well.And there are all kinds of folks who want to gladly embrace those responsibilities, but they have no way to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.
And a year and a half ago, a big majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents in the Senate –- including both of your senators -– passed a bipartisan bill to fix our broken immigration system.The bill wasn’t perfect, but it was a common-sense compromise.It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents.It would have made the legal immigration system smarter and faster.It would have given millions of people a chance to earn their citizenship the right way.It was good for our economy — independent economists estimated that it would not only grow our economy faster but shrink our deficits faster.And if the House of Representatives had simply called for an up-or-down vote, it would have passed.It would be the law.We would be on the way to solve — solving this problem in a sensible way.But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House blocked this simple up-or-down vote.
I still believe that the best way to solve this — is by working together to pass the kind of common-sense law that was passed in the Senate.But until then, there are actions that I have the legal authority to take that will help make our immigration system smarter and fairer.And I took those actions last month.
We’re providing more resources at the border to help law enforcement personnel stop illegal crossings and send home those who cross over.We’re going to focus our enforcement resources on people who actually pose a threat to our communities — felons rather than families, and criminals rather than children.We’re going to bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules — they have to pass a criminal background check, pay taxes, contribute more fully to our economy.
So this isn’t amnesty, or legalization, or even a path to citizenship.That can only be done by Congress.It doesn’t apply to anybody who’s come to this country recently, or who might come illegally in the future.What it does is create a system of accountability, a common-sense, middle-ground approach.And what we’re saying is, until Congress fixes this problem legislatively, if you have deep ties to this country and you are willing to get right by the law and do what you need to do, then you shouldn’t have to worry about being deported or being separated from your kids.
These are the kind of lawful actions taken by every President, Republican and Democrat, for the past 50 years.So when members of Congress question whether I have the authority to do this, I have one answer:Yes, and pass a bill.(Laughter.)If you want Congress to be involved in this process, I welcome it, but you’ve got to pass a bill that addresses the various components of immigration reform in a common-sense way.
And I want to work with both parties to get this done.The day I sign this bill into law, then the executive actions I take are no longer necessary and some of the changes that I’ve instituted administratively become permanent.
Unfortunately, so far, the only response that we’ve had out of the House was a vote taken last week to force talented young people and workers to leave our country.Rather than deport students or separate families or make it harder for law enforcement to do its job, we just need Congress to work with us to pass a common-sense law to fix the broken immigration system.
And meanwhile, Washington shouldn’t let disagreements on this issue prevent action on every other issue.That’s not how our democracy works.Americans are tired of gridlock.We’re seeing the economy move forward.We need to build on that.And certainly my administration is ready to work for it on a whole range of issues.
I do recognize that there are controversies around immigration — there always have been, by the way.Even those who know we need to reform the system may be concerned about not having Congress get it done.Then there are some folks who worry about immigration changing the fabric of our society, or taking jobs from native-born Americans.And I understand those concerns, but, as I said, they’re not new.As a country, we have had these concerns since the Irish and Italians and Poles were coming to Boston and New York, and we have the same concerns when Chinese and Japanese Americans were traveling out West.
But what our history and the facts show is that generation after generation, immigrants have been a net-plus to our economy, and a net-plus to our society.And that’s what cities like Nashville prove is still the case.And this city proves that we can address these concerns together and make sure that immigration works for everybody — that it strengthens our economy, that it strengthens our communities, that we can talk about some of the tensions and concerns in a constructive way rather than yelling at each other.
And so let me close with a story of somebody who’s working to bring people together.David Lubell, who many of you know and who’s here today — where’s David?There he is.(Applause.)So David used to run the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.And he knew that some folks were skeptical about immigrants changing the face of Nashville.And he also knew, though, that these immigrants were good people.So he saw an opportunity for immigration to unite this city rather than divide it.And in 2005, he started “Welcoming Tennessee,” which connects long-term residents in the community with new immigrants.And you’d have dinners and church socials, and at Rotary clubs, and folks got to know each other and maybe feel some empathy, and see themselves in new arrivals.
And the conversations weren’t always easy, but it created a foundation of mutual understanding and respect.And today, David’s initiative is expanding across the country.I think we — you said, David, that we’ve got these kinds of efforts going on in 42 cities around the country.
This is what makes America exceptional.We welcome strivers.We welcome dreamers from all around the world.And it keeps us young, and it keeps us invigorated, and it keeps us striving and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.And then we all bind ourselves together around similar ideals, a similar creed.And one generation in, suddenly those kids are already Americans like everybody else, and we have the same dreams and hopes for them, the same aspirations.
And if we keep harnessing that potential, there’s no limit to what this country can achieve.So Nashville is helping to lead the way in getting this conversation right.We hope that if it happens around the country, that eventually it will drift into the House of Representatives — (laughter) — and we’re going to get the kind of comprehensive legislation that we need to actually solve this problem.
So with that, let me start taking some questions.Thank you very much, everybody.I appreciate it.(Applause.)
So I’ve got a microphone here.This is a nice, intimate group.And so there’s no rules really.I’d just ask everybody who wants to speak to raise their hand.I’ll call on you one at a time.We’ve got some microphones in the audience.And why don’t you, when you’re asking your questions, stand, introduce yourself, tell us a little about yourself, and then ask your question.Try to keep your question relatively brief so — and I’ll try to keep my answers relatively brief.(Laughter.)I don’t always succeed, but I’ll do my best.I’m going to take off my jacket because it’s warm in here.Is Marvin back there?Okay, we’ve got some — here we go.Thanks.
All right.Who wants to go first?Yes, right here in the front.
Q Hi, Mr. President.Thank you so much for coming to Nashville, and the Latin community loves you and welcome you to Nashville.My question is — and I think it’s a concern in the community that — what is going to happen if the next administration decide not to follow what you — the executive action?And I think many of the communities — afraid are they going to be first in line to deportation because they give their information.And that would be my question.
THE PRESIDENT:Well, I think it’s a good question.So let me just — let me go over the mechanics of what’s going to happen.
First of all, part of what we’re saying is that we can’t deport 11 million people and it would be foolish to try, as well as I think wrong for us to try.Congress only allocates a certain amount of money to the immigration system, so we have to prioritize.And my priority is not to separate families who have already been living here but to try to make sure that our borders are secure, to make sure that people come through the right way; to focus on criminals, focus — those who pose a real risk to our society.
And so what’s happened is, is the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of the immigration services, what it said is, is that we’re going to set up priorities in terms of who is subject to deportation.And at the top are criminals, people who pose a threat, and at the bottom are ordinary people who are otherwise law abiding.And what we’re saying essentially is, in that low-priority list, you won’t be a priority for deportation.You’re not going to be deported.We’re not going to keep on separating families.And that new priority list applies to everybody, all 11 million people who are here — I mean, not 11 million, let’s say, whatever the number is.So even if somebody didn’t sign up, they’re still much less likely to be subject to deportation.That’s because we’ve changed our enforcement priorities in a formal way.
What we’re also saying, though, is that for those who have American children or children who are legal permanent residents, that you can actually register and submit yourself to a criminal background check, pay any back taxes and commit to paying future taxes, and if you do that, you’ll actually get a piece of paper that gives you an assurance that you can work and live here without fear of deportation.That doesn’t apply to everybody, but it does apply to roughly five million — about half of what is estimated to be the number of undocumented workers here.
Now, that is temporary.Just like DACA, the program that we put in place for young people who are brought here who otherwise are good citizens, are studying, working, joining our military — we did that several years ago, where we said, it doesn’t make sense for us to subject these young people to a deportation risk; they’re Americans in their heart even if they don’t have the right piece of paper.That’s temporary as well, although it’s been subject to renewal.
And so it’s true that a future administration might try to reverse some of our policies.But I’ll be honest with you, I think that the American people basically have a good heart and want to treat people fairly.And every survey shows that if, in fact, somebody has come out, subjected themselves to a background check, registered, paid their taxes, that the American people support allowing them to stay.So I think any future administration that tried to punish people for doing the right thing I think would not have the support of the American people.
The real question is, how do we make sure that enough people register so that it’s not just a few people in a few pockets around the country.And that’s going to require a lot of work by local agencies, by municipalities, by churches, by community organizations.We’ve got to give people confidence that they can go ahead and register; also make sure that they understand they don’t have to hire a lawyer or go to the notary in order to pay for this.Because what we saw during DACA when the young people were given this opportunity, a lot of people signed up but sometimes you would see advertisements, come and give us $1,000 or $2,000 and we’ll help you — you don’t have to do that.And so we’ve just got to build an effective network around the country.And the Department of Homeland Security will be working with local organizations to make sure that people get the right information.
But I think the main response to people that we have to assure them of is that the American people actually are fair-minded and want to reward rather than punish people who do the right thing.And if you register, I’m confident that that’s going to be something that allows you to then get on a path to being here in this country with your children and watching them grow up and making a life for yourself, as you already have.
Last point.It still is important for us, though, because this is temporary to make sure that we keep pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.Without an actual law, an actual statute passed by Congress, it’s true that theoretically a future administration could do something that I think would be very damaging.It’s not likely, politically, that they’d reverse everything that we’ve done, but it could be that some people then end up being in a disadvantageous position.And nobody is going to have a path to actual citizenship until we get a law passed.
Now, the Senate law would call for people to go to the back of the line, so it would take 10, 13 years before they have citizenship, but at least there’s that pathway.That’s why we still need a law.
And then there are some areas like, for example, the business sector, a lot of high-tech businesses are still looking for young graduates from computer science programs or physics programs around the country.And instead of being able to recruit them and put them to work, those kids are all going home and starting new businesses and creating jobs someplace else.And that doesn’t make any sense.So that’s another area where we couldn’t do anything administratively about that.We were able to streamline some of the legal immigration system, but we’ve still got more work to do.
Okay?Good.I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl to make sure that it’s fair.(Laughter.)So, right here.
Q Thank you.Good afternoon, President.Thank you so much for doing what you did.I was undocumented for 10 years from 1996.I took advantage of the amnesty.I want to thank you.I’m a community organizer with the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C., working with the immigrants from the Human Rights Coalition.And I really thank the people from Nashville, Tennessee for hosting future Chicagoans – of course, I’m from Chicago, too.(Laughter.)
And my question to you is, thank you for the 5 million, but what about the others.There are millions of people who are going to be in the limbo, at risk of being deported.And the second question is, since talking about confidence -– people are skeptical about this, because they are afraid to apply for this.So what is your administration going to do to get the confidence — and people to feel safe to apply for this program that you just passed?Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT:Okay.Well, I sort of answered the question, but I’ll try to answer it one more time.The prioritization in terms of deportation — that applies to everybody, even if you don’t do anything.Now, this will take time to get ICE officers at the ground level to understand what these new priorities are and to apply them in a consistent way.And so there are still going to be stories around the country where some family is separated.
Over time, though, we’re really going to be pushing to retrain and refocus and reprioritize ICE officers to understand let’s focus on criminals, let’s focus on felons, let’s not focus on families.
In terms of setting up the system to sign people up to register so they can get an actual piece of paper that says they can work here, that’s probably going to take a couple of months. And so that gives us time then to communicate through our community organizations, through our churches, through our cities and towns to make sure that people have good information.
So the folks who, as you said, are in limbo, it’s true that they’re not going to qualify for the DACA-like registration process that I described.They’ll still be, if they’re law-abiding, otherwise, if they’re working, peaceful, then they’re much less likely to deportation now than they would have been in the past.And they don’t have to do anything for that.But the registration process, if you qualify, is powerful because you’re now able to go to work without being in the shadows, and you’re paying taxes, which is good for everybody, because we want people to be above board and to do things the right way.
And I think that those who register — my belief is, is that when we do get to passing a law, finally, I think those who have taken the time to register, pay taxes, gone through a criminal background check, they’ve got documentation and proof that they’ve done all that, they’re going to have an easier time then qualifying, I think, for a more permanent legal status because they will have already gone through the screening.And that’s one incentive for why people should want to sign up.
But building trust will take time.But that’s where you come in, so that’s your job.I’m going to work with you.I’ll work with Renata and I’ll work with other activists here to make sure it happens.But we’re going to have to do this together.
I will point out that you already had incredible courage among young people when we announced DACA.Now, we didn’t get 100 percent of young people who qualified signing up, but we got more than half of the people who were qualified signing up.And slowly then, each person who has the courage to sign up, that creates more confidence across the board.
All right, it’s a young woman’s turn now.Yes, go ahead.
Q Hi, Mr. President, and thank you so much for being here with us and giving us this opportunity to speak out our fears.I would like to ask you –- I’m with the Tennessee Immigrants and Refugee Rights Coalition.I’m part of the Migrant Women Committee.And I would like to ask you –- people like me that will probably benefit from this executive order, there is a lot of fear still for people that can have the path to a citizen but not immediately.But they apply for DAPA, the Deferred Action for Parents.Will they face a bar from being in this situation?
THE PRESIDENT:No, I think that those who are — look, I would encourage anybody who has another path for legalization to follow that path.But this does not short-circuit whatever other strategies you’re pursuing.If you are already trying to get legal permanent resident status or citizenship through some of the existing laws, then you should feel free to continue that.What this does do is it simply says that it gives you an opportunity to make sure that deportation is not going to happen during this period — which will extend for several years.
Can Big Marvin get me my cup of tea back there?Oh, here it is.All right.This isn’t Big Marvin, but he’s big.(Laughter.)
All right.Gentleman there in the back.
Q I’m a member of the Coalition for Education — Immigration.I’m an immigrant to Nashville.I grew up — Chicago, have lived here the last 12 years.
THE PRESIDENT:It’s warmer here.(Laughter.)
Q I do miss the White Sox.
Q My question is about — one of the many things I appreciate so much about your leadership is the civil way in which you approach the most difficult of problems, in spite of hearing the rancor you do from those who disagree.(Inaudible)
-– community like this, trying to talk with reason only to be greeted by deep emotion and anger and rhetoric that is demeaning. It’s almost as if we need a civility platform for our nation, an office of civility — maybe for our U.S. Congress.Excuse me, Jim.But I’m serious about how do we teach young people to act in a civil way if we don’t role-model the civility?And how important is that for us to move forward, that we can engage in the kinds of conversations in the tone that you present problems?
THE PRESIDENT:Well, look, first of all, I don’t know anybody more civil than Jim Cooper.(Applause.)He is an extraordinary gentleman, and always has been, ever since I’ve had a chance to know him since I came to Washington.
Look, immigration, as I said before, has always elicited passion.And it’s ironic because unless you are a member of a Native American tribe, you came here from someplace else, or your people did.And I know that sometimes folks talk about, well, we came here the right way rather than the wrong way.And it’s true that previous generations came through Ellis Island or they came through Angel Island or other ways of arriving here.
But I think sometimes we overstate the degree to which that was some really elaborate bureaucratic process.There’s a reason, for example, that these days a lot of people named Smith used to be named Smithsowsky or Smitharea or whatever it is.What happened is when they came in somebody just said, what’s your name, and they stamped them and if they couldn’t pronounce it — you always hear stories about they Anglicized it.A lot of times people’s papers were not necessarily being checked because folks might not have had papers.And who came in and who didn’t varied depending on how big of a workforce — or how much industry was looking for new labor, and what the political climate was at that particular time.
And so what happens is, is that once folks are here we kind of forget that we used to be there.And what I try to do when I talk about these issues is just try to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and feel some empathy, and recognize that to some degree, if you’re American, somewhere back there, there was somebody who was a newcomer here too.And it wasn’t always neat and orderly the way the American population expanded across the West.And if we have that sense of empathy then maybe that creates civility.That’s why the kinds of efforts were seeing here in Nashville just conversations where people get to know newcomers is so important.
It’s interesting — I was telling Steve and Jim, I get about 40,000 correspondence every day, and some of them are just writing to say you’re doing a good job, keep going.Some of them are you are the worst President ever, you’re an idiot, a lot of them are just people asking for help.
But more than once, multiple times during the course of my presidency, I’ve gotten letters from people who say I don’t agree with you about anything, I am a Republican, I used to be really angry with you about your immigration posture and then I found out that my son Jim’s best friend, Jose, was undocumented and he wasn’t going to be able to apply to the local college because he was afraid about being deported, and this is a kid who has played in my back yard, helped me wash my car, and been on the ball team with my kid and I loved this kid and so I don’t think it’s right that this young person shouldn’t be treated the same way that I would want someone to treat my son.And I’ve gotten a lot of letters like that.And they say, even though I still don’t agree with you about anything — (laughter) — I do ask you — that you give Jose a chance.
And so that’s where civility comes from.It’s that interaction and personal experience as opposed to just being able to stereotype somebody one way or the other.Now, it’s important, by the way, though, that the civility runs both ways.And I do think — obviously I’ve been at the receiving end of people really angry at me about not just these executive actions, but have been ginned up by some of the conservative talk shows that think that I’m usurping my authority despite the fact that every previous President has exercised the same authority or they think I’m favoring immigrants over red-blooded Americans.And so that’s a lot of the criticism directed at me.
But what’s also true is sometimes advocates on behalf of immigrants have suggested that anybody who is concerned about the impact of immigration, or asks questions about comprehensive immigration reform, that they must be racist or they must be anti-immigrant or their ignorant.And, that’s not true either.
There are people who are good people who actually believe in immigration, but are concerned about rewarding somebody who broke American laws.There are good people who believe in immigration but are concerned, will new immigrants depress wages, particularly in the low-wage sectors of the economy.Those are legitimate questions, and we have to be just as civil in addressing those questions as we expect people to be when we are talking to them.Because I think the facts are on our side, I think the studies have shown that over time immigrants aren’t lowering wages but in fact improving the economy, and over time, boosting wages and jobs for everyone.
So I would rather just make the argument on the facts, but just because somebody thinks that instinctually doesn’t mean that they are bad people.So civility is good, but it doesn’t just run one way.And I think — the good book says, don’t throw stones in glass houses, or make sure we’re looking at the log in our eye before were pulling out the mote in other folks eyes.And I think that’s as true in politics as it is in life.
Okay.Let’s see if I’ve got any women who want to ask questions today.I’m going to make sure I’m fair.That young lady in the back right there.You.
Q Hi.I’m part of an organization that works with refugees and immigrants.And one question I have — was there a particular reason why the parents of the DACA — the DREAMers, the DACA recipients, were excluded in your new executive order?
THE PRESIDENT:Yes, there is.And it was — the actions I took were bound by the legal authority that the Office of Legal Counsel determined I had in this area.The office — I don’t want to get too technical here, but the Office of Legal Counsel is a special office in the Department of Justice that is mandated to give me independent judgment not subject to politics or pressure from me about what my legal authorities are.
And so we presented to them the various things that we’d like to do.They were very clear about my legal authority to prioritize and then provide this temporary protection for parents whose children were Americans, or — American citizens, or legal permanent residents.Because the argument they found compelling, and there was a lot of precedent for, was — essentially humanitarian argument — that if we’re prioritizing, why would we want to separate families.
The challenge we had in the minds of the Office of Legal Counsel was, if you’ve already exempted the young people through DACA, and then you bootstrap off of that the capacity to exempt their parents as well, you’re not rooted originally in somebody who is either a citizen or a legal permanent resident.So it was a legal constraint on our authority.It was not because we did not care about those parents.
And I know that there are a lot of DREAM Act kids who are concerned that their parents may not still qualify.A sizable number do because they have a sibling who ended up being born in the United States.But not all do.This is one more reason why we still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform.Because what we did was to do everything that I could within my legal authority, but not go beyond the legal authority that we possessed.
This young man right here.I think the mic is coming from behind you.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.We are delighted to have you here in Nashville and in Casa Azafran.I’m a member of the mayor’s New American Advisory Council, and also direct a nonprofit that’s housed here called AMAC, the American Muslim Advisory Council.And my question to you is that — in 2004, when you gave that speech about — at the Democratic convention, kind of alluded to this idea that we are one nation, there’s no black and blue — blue or red America.But when it comes to this issue of immigration, as someone that works in this community, our mantra here in Nashville is, Nashville for all of us, and Tennessee for all of us.
So to come around that idea for America for all of us, that we don’t keep having this conversation — as the President, you have been in this position the past six years.What would you say to other — Americans who are feeling now on that side even considering the newly elected Congress that are adamant on stopping these steps?Because I got the privilege of being the — welcoming Tennessee director, and being in those conversations — and inherently, Tennesseans are the nicest people.Those people are in charge of the — that we used to have those conversations with.But what would you say to the rest of the nation — who thinks that now new Americans or immigrants are getting this special treatment?
THE PRESIDENT:Well, I, I addressed the nation when I announced this action, and I made a couple of simple points.
First of all, America is a nation of immigrants, but it’s also a nation of laws.And there does need to be accountability if you came here in a way that was not in accordance with the law.The question then becomes, how do you make that person accountable?I mean, one way of doing it is randomly or sporadically separating families, but you don’t have uniform enforcement, you’re pushing people into the shadows.They may not be paying taxes.They may be taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers.You are using all those resources instead of strengthening borders.And that’s not a smart outcome.
The second approach would be to pass laws that say, let’s improve the legal system.Because sometimes people actually would be qualified to come here if the system was just a little smoother, but they end up with a situation where they’ve got to wait years to be reunited with a family member who’s legally here and the heartache just becomes too great.So we’re — in some cases, we’re pushing people into the illegal system because we’re not making the legal system smart enough.
We can get people out of the shadows.We can acknowledge they are our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers.And then we still have to be serious about border security.And there have been times — I want to be very frank — there have been times where I’ve had arguments with immigrant rights activists who say, effectively, you know, there shouldn’t be any rules, these are good people, why should we have any kind of enforcement like this.And my response is, in the eyes of God, everybody is equal.In the eyes of God, some child in Mexico, Guatemala, Libya, Nepal is the equal of my child.
I don’t make any claims that my child is superior to somebody else’s child.But I’m the President of the United States, and nation states have borders.And, frankly, because America is so much wealthier than most countries around the world, if we had no system of enforcing our borders and our laws, then I promise you, everybody would try to come here, or if not everybody — maybe you wouldn’t have that many Swedes or Singaporians try to come here, but a whole lot of folks would try to come.And that we couldn’t accommodate.And it wouldn’t be fair, because there’s — you have to have some sort of line.It can’t just be — it can’t be whoever is able to get in here first, and then — it’s sort of first one to win the race.Because sometimes it’s just an accident that one person lives in a country that has a border with the United States, and another person in Somalia, it’s a lot harder to get here.
So the idea is, then, that what we try to do is to have a system that resets; that acknowledges — and this is where I think most Americans are.They recognize, you know what, people who are already here — many times they’ve been here 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, they’ve got deep roots here, they’ve shown themselves to be good people, their kids are for all practical purposes Americans — let’s just acknowledge they’re part of our community, they’re part of our society.
But then the tradeoff is, let’s try to make the legal system fairer, and in some cases, that means, for example, doing more work at the borders — although, by the way, the real work at the borders is not simply to just — more fencing and more people every five minutes at the borders, because we’ve already got a whole lot of folks at the borders.We can do some other additional stuff, but a lot of it is helping Mexico or helping Central American countries strengthen their economies so people don’t feel desperate and compelled to come here.
But I guess the bottom line is, what I say to folks on the other side of this debate is, work with me to reflect the wisdom of the American people.And I think the American people’s wisdom is, people who are already here, let’s give them a shot, let’s get them out of the shadows, but let’s also set up a legal system that is more reliable, more certain, more fair, doesn’t have people jumping the line, is more honest and reflecting the fact that families, it’s very hard for them to stay separated for 10, 15 years and so you shouldn’t set up a legal system that requires that.You’ve got to figure out a way to have it more reflective of human nature.
Now, does that mean everybody is going to listen to me on the other side?Not necessarily.They’re pretty sure I’m an illegal immigrant.(Laughter.)That was a joke.(Laughter.)But I mean, there are going to be some who just disagree with you.
The good news is, is that over time, these issues work themselves out.Anybody who is of Irish extraction — and that includes me, because I’ve been to a little town in Ireland called Moneygall, where my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather came over here.It turns out he was a boot maker, and it turns out Biden’s guy, Biden’s great-great-great-great-great came from I think the adjoining county within like 20 years.So me and Biden are — really are cousins.(Laughter.)
But anybody of Irish extraction just has to — read your history and look at how people talked about Irish immigrants.I mean, it was just — everything that’s said today was said about them — they’re criminals, they’re shiftless, they are draining our resources, they’re irresponsible, they’re going to change our culture.
And so if you read those passages, then you have to understand that this is not a new phenomenon.But the good news is, it should also be a source of optimism, because over time, essentially, new people get absorbed.And it’s always messy.It’s always a messy piece of business.
But the one thing that I want to emphasize — because sometimes this doesn’t get emphasized enough, and it seems somewhat abstract — but any economist will tell you that economies with younger workforces grow faster than economies with older workforces.One of the biggest advantages America has over Europe, over Japan, over China is we have a younger population.And it’s almost a mathematical certainty that we will grow faster than they do, all things being equal — I mean, we’ve got to make good choices about investing in research and development and education and all that stuff — but all things being equal, we will grow significantly faster than those other countries because our population is younger.
The only reason our population is younger is because we have this tradition of immigrants.Otherwise — because native-born Americans, actually, our birth rates are as low as Europeans’ are.But we replenish ourselves, and that’s good.And, by the way, people who are about my age right now, and who are going to be looking to draw on Social Security, when you’re 70, the way Social Security works, it’s the current workforce that pays for the retired workforce.And so you have a stake in these folks working and paying taxes, these young people, to support your retirement.So this is — it’s good for the economy as well as for our society.
How much time do I have?I want to make sure I’m not — am I doing pretty good?I’ve got a priest here who’s got his hand up, but it’s a woman’s turn first so this is — I’m a little nervous about not calling on him right away but I’m trying to stick to the rules here.(Laughter.)So all right, young lady right in the front here.
Q Hello, Mr. President.I am a senior in high school.And my question to you would be, how can we as young people in our communities get involved to address issues such as immigration or the access to a post-secondary education?What are some things we can do?
THE PRESIDENT:Well, if you’re here, you must already be involved.(Laughter.)You know, getting young people involved in civic life and activism and voting is one of the most important things we can do as a society.Because there are exceptions and there are people who are young at heart and young at mind, but the truth is, you get older, you get stuck in your ways and you start looking backwards and really focused on what was instead of what could be.
And again, part of the reason America has done so well is because we constantly reimagine ourselves, and we have a youthful culture that says, well, let’s — in the words of Robert Kennedy, some people ask why, and we have a tendency to ask why not.And that’s good.
Now, young people are also busy with — I got a couple young people at home — they have other things that they’re interested.I won’t name all of them.Hopefully some if it is their books and doing their homework.(Laughter.)And one of the most concerning things I had about the midterm elections was young people — the voting rates among young people dropped off drastically.
Young people have tended to vote at very high level during my presidential campaigns, but in between, they lose interest.And part of what your peers have to do is to understand that politics and government and policy and all the decisions that are going to shape your lives are not just a matter of one election, but it has to be sustained over time.
And when you think about what’s at stake right now, immigration is obviously a major issue.Climate change — most of those of us who are 50 or over, by the time the problems of a warming climate really hit, we’ll be gone, but you’ll still be around and your kids will be here.And if it’s having a significant impact on weather patterns, and drought, and wildfires, and flooding, and food, and migration, it’s not going to be pretty.So you have to get involved now to do something about it.
When we look at higher education costs, historically, Congress and state legislatures are more attentive to the demands of seniors than they are the demands of young people for one simple reason:Seniors vote, young people don’t.If you want state legislatures to increase support for higher education that then can help reduce tuition, then young people have to vote at a higher percentage than just 12 percent of those who vote.
Look at what’s happening right now with respect to concerns about bias and law enforcement, and policing.I mean, I met with a group of young activists, including several from Ferguson, to talk to them, and I was very impressed with how they presented themselves, and they were very serious and thoughtful.And I told them, I said, listen, I want you to continue to be active, because that’s how change happens.You need to be respectful.You need to understand that you’re not going to get 100 percent of the change that is needed, because that’s never been how society works, but if you are steady and you sustain it and you push it and you don’t tired or disappointed when you get half a loaf instead of a whole loaf, over time, the country and the world is transformed.
And I’m confident that — I said in an interview recently — America is a more just place, and issues of racial discrimination are lessened today than they were 50 years ago or 20 years ago, but that didn’t just happen by accident, that happened because people — especially young people — helped to make it happen.And over time, change occurs and people adjust to a new reality, and they open their heart and mind to new possibilities.And young people are typically the triggers of that.
So I think when your leaders like — young leaders like you are talking to your friends, you’ve got to just remind them that you have responsibilities and obligations.And make sure that you serve pizza at the meetings — (laughter) — because free food always helps when getting young people involved in social causes.(Laughter.)
All right, Father.Thank you for your patience there, sir.You’ve got a microphone behind you.
Q Father Joseph Freen (ph), native Nashvillian.I think I speak on behalf of a good number of people, Mr. President, of both parties — some you know may not agree with some of your policies.But I think I can speak for so many who are so proud of you for giving such a great example of a husband, of a father, and doing your very best as a President.
So we are very proud of you, grateful you’ve come to Nashville.We wish for you — I’m sure on behalf of all of us — a joyful and a blessed Christmas to you.
THE PRESIDENT:Well, I appreciate that very much.That’s very nice.Thank you.(Applause.)
I appreciate that, Father.It’s worth considering the Good Book when you’re thinking about immigration.This Christmas season there’s a whole story about a young, soon-to-be-mother and her husband of modest means looking for a place to house themselves for the night, and there’s no room at the inn.
And as I said the day that I announced these executive actions, we were once strangers too.And part of what my faith teaches me is to look upon the stranger as part of myself.And during this Christmas season, that’s a good place to start.
So thank you for your generous comment.But if we’re serious about the Christmas season, now is a good time to reflect on those who are strangers in our midst, and remember what it was like to be a stranger.
Last question.That was a pretty good place to end, though.(Laughter.)I got to admit.I kind of want to — but I’m going to call on one more person.Gentlemen, you can all put your hands down.I’m going to call on this young lady right here.
Q Hi, Mr. President.I’m an immigration attorney.And I wonder, what are the things that you deem necessary for comprehensive immigration reform if Congress does act soon?
THE PRESIDENT:Well, the Senate bill is a pretty good place to start.I do think there’s more work we can do at the borders.As I said before, it’s not just a matter of pouring money down there.
I’ll give you one very simple example.You’ll recall that some of the politics of this shifted during the summer when these unaccompanied children were here.And there was two weeks of wall-to-wall coverage.And we were being invaded by 8-, and 12- and 13-year-olds.I mean it was just terrifying, apparently.But it reflected a serious problem.You had smugglers, coyotes, who were essentially taking money from family members here, shuttling these kids up — it wasn’t that they weren’t apprehended.It wasn’t like they snuck through the border.What happened was they basically presented themselves at the border.They’d come in.And because there are so few immigration judges down there, because we hadn’t done a very good job cooperating with Central America and Mexico to deal — go after these smugglers, you’d then have a situation which the kids would oftentimes simply be released to the family member, and then that was the end of the things.
And so one of the things that we’ve done is — well, several things we did.Number one, I met with the Central American leaders down there and said, listen, you can’t — you’ve got to do something to message to families down here:Do not send your children on a dangerous path like this because we don’t know how many of them might have gotten killed, gotten abducted, trafficked in some terrible way.We have no way of keeping track of that.You can’t have them take this dangerous journey.
And to their credit, those Central American countries worked with us.We said to Mexico, you’ve got to do something more about the southern border.They did that.We now have the number of unaccompanied children below the rate that it was two years ago.So this was a momentary spike.
But also what we need to do is make sure that we have enough immigration lawyers down there that you can process kids and immigration judges to process kids in a timely fashion, but with due process so that if they have legitimate refugee claims, those can be presented, and if not, then they can be returned home.
So that’s not a strict border issue.It’s not a fence issue.It’s “have you set up a sensible process” issue.So I think that’s one pillar.
Second pillar is improving the legal immigration system.I already mentioned this but I’ll just repeat a couple of examples.Somebody who potentially qualifies to be a resident here, forcing them to leave the country and then waiting for years before they come back when they’ve got family members here, that’s just not how the human heart works.It’s very hard to expect somebody to do that.
Let’s have a more sensible, streamlined system.Let’s reduce some of the backlogs that already exist for people who actually qualify, but it’s just they’re waiting in line so long that they get frustrated.Let’s do something for especially talented and skilled people who are graduating.We educate them.We should be stapling a green card to graduates of top schools in fields that we know we need.And by the way, we can charge fees that we then use to make sure that American kids are getting the kinds of scholarships and training they need for those same jobs in the future.
We need to do more work.We need to deal with the agricultural sector.I’m generally skeptical when you hear employers say, well, we just can’t find any Americans to do the job.A lot of times what they really mean is, it’s a lot cheaper if we potentially hire somebody who has just come here before they know better in terms of what they’re worth.
But in the agriculture sector, there’s truth.We enjoy a lot of cheap fruits and vegetables and food stuffs because of the back-breaking work of farm workers.And we should find a system that is fair, make sure that they are not subject to exploitation, and helps us run the economy.We should make sure that we’re cracking down on employers who are purposely hiring undocumented workers so that they can get around minimum wage laws or overtime laws, so forth.
And finally, as I’ve discussed this whole afternoon, we should get people out of the shadows.And the Senate bill I thought had a sensible approach, which said, if you’ve been here a certain amount of time, you’ve got a clean record, you’re willing to submit yourself to a background check, you’re willing to pay back-taxes, you’re willing to pay a fine, learn English, go to the back of the line, but if you do all that, you can stay here for now and we’re going to put you on a pathway where eventually you can earn your citizenship, although it will be many years into the future because we still have to clear out those folks who did it the right way.
This concept — what I just described, that package — has bipartisan support.It’s not that it doesn’t have bipartisan support.The challenge is, is that there’s a certain segment — primarily within the Republican Party, although in fairness, in the Democratic Party there are some people who are resistant as well, who just keep on believing this notion of, that’s amnesty, that’s amnesty.
And what amnesty implies I think in the minds of the American people is that you’re getting something for nothing; that you’re getting over.And when you describe for people that, in fact, you do have to get a background check, you do have to register, you do have to pay fines, you do have to pay back-taxes, then people feel differently.But that’s never advertised by opponents.And that’s one reason why, by the way, that I’ve said to immigrant rights groups, you have to describe the responsibility side of this and not just the rights side of this.Because I think sometimes — I appreciate the immigrant rights groups.They speak from the heart, and they know the people involved.And they love them, and they want to just do right by them.And I get that.
But this is where you need to look at the other side of the equation and what people feel like is, you know what, if you’re just coming here for nothing, and I don’t know that you’re paying your taxes and you broke the law, and now suddenly I’m paying for your kid’s school and your kid’s hospitalization, and if feels unfair — at a time when people are already feeling burdened by their own challenges, trying to afford their own kid’s college education, or feeling like they’re worried about their own retirement.
So the langue we use I think is important.You have to speak to the fact that — if somebody broke the law, even if they’re good people, they’ve got to be held accountable.And there are going to be responsibilities involved in it.Because if it’s just rights and no responsibilities, then people feel resentful.
That make sense?All right, guys, I enjoyed spending time with you.Thank you.(Applause.)
3:37 P.M. CST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 9, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 7, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 6, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 4, 2014
Source: WH, 11-25-14
5:05 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Everybody, have a seat. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. Happy early Thanksgiving, everybody. It is good to be home. (Applause.) Although it’s cold in Chicago. (Laughter.) It was 60 degrees in Washington. It’s not 60 degrees here. (Laughter.)
Let me begin by thanking the Copernicus Center. Dzien dobry to everybody. (Applause.) We appreciate you. Thank you so much.
I hope you don’t mind — because obviously there’s a lot of stuff in the news — I actually need to begin by saying a few words about what’s happened over the past day, not just in Ferguson, Missouri, our neighbor to the south, but all across America.
As many of you know, a verdict came down — or a grand jury made a decision yesterday that upset a lot of people. And as I said last night, the frustrations that we’ve seen are not just about a particular incident. They have deep roots in many communities of color who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly. That may not be true everywhere, and it’s certainly not true for the vast majority of law enforcement officials, but that’s an impression that folks have and it’s not just made up. It’s rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time.
Now, as I said last night, there are productive ways of responding and expressing those frustrations, and there are destructive ways of responding. Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk — that’s destructive and there’s no excuse for it. Those are criminal acts, and people should be prosecuted if they engage in criminal acts.
But what we also saw — although it didn’t get as much attention in the media — was people gathering in overwhelmingly peaceful protest — here in Chicago, in New York, in Los Angeles, other cities. We’ve seen young people who were organizing, and people beginning to have real conversations about how do we change the situation so that there’s more trust between law enforcement and some of these communities. And those are necessary conversations to have.
We’re here to talk about immigration, but part of what makes America this remarkable place is being American doesn’t mean you have to look a certain way or have a certain last name or come from a certain place; it has to do with a commitment to ideals, a belief in certain values. And if any part of the American community doesn’t feel welcomed or treated fairly, that’s something that puts all of us at risk and we all have to be concerned about it.
So my message to those people who are constructively moving forward, trying to organize, mobilize, and ask hard, important questions about how we improve the situation — I want all those folks to know that their President is going to work with them. (Applause.) Separate and apart from the particular circumstances in Ferguson, which I am careful not to speak to because it’s not my job as President to comment on ongoing investigations and specific cases, but the frustrations people have generally — those are rooted in some hard truths that have to be addressed.
And so those who are prepared to work constructively, your President will work with you. And a lot of folks, I believe, in law enforcement and a lot of folks in city halls and governor’s offices across the country want to work with you as well.
So as part of that, I’ve instructed Attorney General Eric Holder not just to investigate what happened in Ferguson, but also identify specific steps we can take together to set up a series of regional meetings focused on building trust in our communities. And next week, we’ll bring together state and local officials, and law enforcement, and community leaders and faith leaders to start identifying very specific steps that we can take to make sure that law enforcement is fair and is being applied equally to every person in this country.
And we know certain things work. We know that if we train police properly, that that improves policing and makes people feel that the system is fair. We know that when we have a police force that is representative of the communities it’s serving that makes a difference. (Applause.) And we know that when there’s clear accountability and transparency when something happens that makes a difference. So there are specific things we can do, and the key now is for us to lift up the best practices and work, city by city, state by state, county by county, all across this country, because the problem is not just a Ferguson problem, it is an American problem. And we’ve got to make sure that we are actually bringing about change.
The bottom line is, nothing of significance, nothing of benefit results from destructive acts. I’ve never seen a civil rights law, or a health care bill, or an immigration bill result because a car got burned. It happened because people vote. It happened because people mobilize. It happened because people organize. It happens because people look at what are the best policies to solve the problem. That’s how you actually move something forward. (Applause.)
So don’t take the short-term, easy route and just engage in destructive behavior. Take the long-term, hard but lasting route of working with me and governors and state officials to bring about some real change.
And to those who think that what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I do not have any sympathy for that. (Applause.) I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities. But for the overwhelming majority of people who just feel frustrated and pain because they get a sense that maybe some communities aren’t treated fairly, or some individuals aren’t seen as worthy as others, I understand that. And I want to work with you and I want to move forward with you. Your President will be right there with you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: All right? So that’s what we need to focus on. (Applause.) Let’s be constructive.
I appreciate your patience, because I know you came here to talk about immigration. But this is relevant, because part of what America is about is stitching together folks from different backgrounds and different faiths and different ethnicities. That’s what makes us special. (Applause.) And, look, let’s face it, sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes that’s hard to do. But it’s worthwhile, it’s worth doing.
If you go to — I was just traveling in Asia — you go to Japan, they don’t have problems with certain folks being discriminated against because mostly everybody is Japanese. (Laughter.) You know? But here, part of what’s wonderful about America is also what makes our democracy hard sometimes, because sometimes we get attached to our particular tribe, our particular race, our particular religion, and then we start treating other folks differently.
And that, sometimes, has been a bottleneck to how we think about immigration. If you look at the history of immigration in this country, each successive wave, there have been periods where the folks who were already here suddenly say, well, I don’t want those folks. Even though the only people who have the right to say that are some Native Americans. (Applause.)
Now, it is fitting that I’ve come here, back home to Chicago. Because Chicago has always been a city of immigrants. And that’s still true in the neighborhoods that define this city. (Applause.) Especially on the North Side up here. I mean, there’s — (laughter.) We got everything up here. (Laughter.)
No, you go to the public schools around here and you got 50, 60, 70 different languages being spoken. From Andersonville to Chinatown; from Devon to Greektown; Pilsen to Ukrainian Village — immigrants have made this city of broad shoulders their home. We are Swedish and Polish and German and Italian. Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. (Laughter and applause.)
We’ve got names like Pat Quinn, our Governor — (applause) — and Luis Gutierrez, our Congressman — (applause) — Jan Schakowsky, another Congresswoman — (applause) — Brad Schneider, Congressman. (Applause.) Rahm Emanuel — (applause.) All mixed up. (Laughter.) I don’t mean Rahm. I mean all of us, together. (Laughter.) It is true that Rahm speaks a language that can’t be translated in front of children. (Laughter.) Although he’s a mayor now, so he doesn’t do that anymore, I’m sure. (Laughter.)
Anyone who’s driven along the Kennedy has seen the silhouettes of steeples jabbing at the sky — steeples as diverse as the houses of worship that they belong to, and the immigrants that built them, and the communities who call those neighborhoods home to this day.
Today, we’re here at a Polish community center, and I just — (applause.) I was just meeting with a group of Chicago’s business and civic leaders, representing people who come here from Mexico and China and Poland and Ireland.
You just heard Billy Lawless, who was a successful business owner back in Galway. But, he says — and I’m quoting here — “I had a thing for the United States. I always wanted to see if I could hack it with you guys.” And so, 16 years ago, Billy comes to Chicago, opens up an Irish pub — because there was a shortage of Irish pubs in Chicago. (Laughter and applause.) Then he opened another restaurant, then another, and then another. And four months ago, Billy and his wife became American citizens, and they voted for the very first time as Americans on November 4th. And you can often find their son, also named Billy, charming the heck out of customers at all hours of the day and night. Together they’ve gone from employing 10 workers to employing more than 250 workers.
And you just heard what Billy said — “This is what we immigrants do.” One study a few years ago found that immigrants start more than a quarter of all new businesses in the United States — one-quarter of them. Another study found that immigrants and their children start over 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Think about that. But it makes sense, because being a nation of immigrants gives us this huge entrepreneurial advantage over other nations. If you are willing to strike out, go to someplace new, build from scratch — you’ve got that sense of being willing to take risks and being able to build something from scratch — you have that spirit, that’s part of what the American spirit is all about. It’s part of what drove us westward across the frontier — not feeling like what’s in front of you is the only thing that’s possible, but that something else is possible.
And because of those businesses started by immigrants, we all benefit. It means more jobs. It means more growth for everybody.
Now, as I said last week, our immigration system has been broken for a long time. Families who try to come here the right way can get stuck in line for years. Business owners who treat their employees right often see the competition exploit undocumented workers to undercut businesses. All of us, I think, don’t like the idea that anybody can reap the rewards of living in America without its responsibilities. And there are people who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities, but they have no way of coming out of the shadows and getting right with the law. So everybody is stuck with a system that doesn’t work for anybody.
Now, a year and a half ago, we had a big majority — Democrats, Republicans, independents — in the United States Senate and they came together, they passed a bipartisan bill to fix this broken system. And the bill wasn’t perfect. It didn’t have everything I wanted; it didn’t have everything that anybody wanted. But it did reflect common sense. It was this huge improvement.
We would have doubled the number of border patrol agents. So if you are concerned about illegal migration, it would have made our borders that much tougher. It would have made our legal immigration system smarter and fairer, and reduce some of the backlog that hampers families from getting here. It would have given millions of people a chance to earn their citizenship the right way. And independent experts said that, over the next two decades, the new law would grow our economy and shrink our deficit.
And had the House of Representatives allowed a simple yes or no vote on that kind of bill, it would have passed. That’s all they needed to do, just call the bill. It would be law right now. We’d be well on our way to solving the problems in the system. I’d be implementing those provisions. But for a year and a half, over 500 days, Republican leaders in the House simply refused to allow a vote. They wouldn’t let it come to the floor.
Now, I still believe the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common-sense law. When I was talking to Billy and the other civic leaders — there were things that can only be solved by Congress. But until then, there are actions I have the legal authority to take that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just. And I took them last week. (Applause.) They were the right thing to do. (Applause.)
So we’re devoting more resources for law enforcement to stem the flow of illegal crossings at the borders and to speed the return of those who do cross over. We’re initiating smarter reforms so high-skilled immigrants, and graduates, and entrepreneurs can stay and contribute to our economy. And I’m taking new steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live here — including here in Chicago.
Now, I’ve said this before, so I just want to be clear, and I say it in front of immigrant rights groups all the time. Undocumented workers who broke our immigration laws should be held accountable. There’s a particular category, and that’s those who may be dangerous. It’s a small minority, but it’s a significant one. And that’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And we’ll keep focusing our limited enforcement resources on those who actually pose a threat to our security. Felons, not families. Gangs, not some mom or dad who are working hard just trying to make a better life for their kids.
But even —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Mr. President, that has been a lie. You have been deporting every —
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Okay. All right. That’s fine. All right.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Not one more! Stop deportations!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Not one more!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible) — to a lot of people and this is not about immigration reform for communities — labeling people as criminals. And that is not the truth! You did not — (inaudible) — felons, not families.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, I’ve heard you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: I understand.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Listen, hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Young lady, don’t just start yelling, young lady. Sir, why don’t you sit down, too. Listen —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Here, can I just say this? All right, I’ve listened to you. I heard you. I heard you. I heard you. All right? Now, I’ve been respectful. I let you holler. So let me — (applause.) All right? Nobody is removing you. I’ve heard you. But you’ve got to listen to me, too. All right? (Applause.) And I understand you may disagree. I understand you may disagree. But we’ve got to be able to talk honestly about these issues. All right?
Now, you’re absolutely right that there have been significant numbers of deportations. That’s true. But what you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took action to change the law. (Applause.) So that’s point number one.
Point number two, the way the change in the law works is that we’re reprioritizing how we enforce our immigration laws generally. So not everybody qualifies for being able to sign up and register, but the change in priorities applies to everybody.
The point is that, though I understand why you might have yelled at me a month ago — (laughter) — although I disagree with some of your characterizations, it doesn’t make much sense to yell at me right now — (applause) — when we’re making changes. (Applause.)
So the point is — but the point is, let’s make sure that you get the facts and that you know exactly what we’re doing. And then if you have disagreements, then you can work through all the immigrant rights organizations that we work with to try to address some of your concerns. (Applause.) Right?
But here’s what won’t work. What won’t work is folks — what won’t work is folks just shouting at each other. All right? So I’ve been respectful. I responded to your question. I’d ask you now to let me speak to all the other people who are here. All right? (Applause.) Okay.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. It’s good to be back in Chicago. (Laughter and applause.) Because everybody has got something to say. But I’m not going to be able to have a conversation with each of you separately. (Laughter.) So there are other ways of engaging. Just sit down. I went off script for a pretty long time. (Laughter.) I don’t mind. I know people are passionate about this. But be respectful of everybody who’s here. (Applause.) All right?
Now, let me get to the point that I was making, which is even if we deported all the criminals, folks who had actually done bad things, there are millions of people here who are good people but have still broken the immigration laws. And they’re found in every state, every race, every nationality. Tracking down and rounding up and deporting millions of people is not realistic. It’s not who we are. It’s not what America should be.
On the other hand — and this sometimes is not acknowledged — if you came here illegally, you are cutting in front of the line of the folks who were trying to come here legally –(applause) — which also is not fair. (Applause.) that’s not fair. That doesn’t make people bad people. But it does mean that you cut in front of the line — because there are a lot of folks who are waiting to try to get here legally.
So the deal that we’re putting forward is this: If you’ve been here for more than five years; if you have children who are citizens or legal residents; if you register, and pass a criminal background check, and pay your fair share of taxes — then you can apply to stay temporarily. You can come out of the shadows. You can get right with the law.
This isn’t amnesty, or legalization, or even a pathway to citizenship — because that’s not something I can do. That is something only Congress can do. It also doesn’t apply to anyone who has come to this country recently, or might come illegally in the future — because borders do mean something. So it’s accountability. It’s a common-sense approach that allows me to exercise legal authorities that I have in order to make sure that we’re preventing families from being broken apart.
And I am the first one to acknowledge that part of the reason that this has become important to me is, you’re right, there have been times where families got broken apart — while I’ve been President. And it’s heartbreaking. That’s not right. So until Congress does a complete fix, what we’re saying is, if you have deep ties here, and you start paying your fair share of taxes, then we won’t deport you and separate you from your kids. (Applause.)
And even if you do not fully qualify, we will still try to reprioritize how we’re enforcing the laws — which we have to do — in a way that is less likely to break families apart. Because the system is broken.
And one of the reasons why this is important is because immigrants are good for the economy. We keep on hearing that they’re bad. But a report by my Council of Economic Advisers put out last week shows how the actions we’re taking will grow our economy for everybody. By 2024, the actions that I’m taking will add at least $90 billion to our Gross Domestic Product. (Applause.) And this economic growth will reduce our deficit by $25 billion. These actions will grow our labor force by nearly 150,000 people, and they will boost wages for American-born workers.
Now, if we passed a comprehensive law, it would be even better. We’d grow even faster, and the deficit would come down even faster. But even the steps we’re taking now will make a difference.
And these actions are lawful. They’re not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions that have been taken by every President for the past 50 years. (Applause.) When I hear some of my Republican friends talk about this, I try to remind them President Reagan took action to keep families together. The first President Bush took action to shield about 1.5 million people — that was about 40 percent of undocumented immigrants in America at the time.
So when folks in Congress question my authority to make our immigration system work better, I’ve one answer: Pass a bill. (Applause.) Pass a bill. Go ahead and pass a bill. I want to work with both parties on a more permanent legislative solution. I know that’s what Luis Gutierrez wants, and Jan Schakowski wants, and Brad Schneider wants. They’ve been at the forefront fighting for a more permanent solution. And the day I sign a comprehensive immigration bill into law, then the actions I take will no longer be necessary.
But in the meantime, I’m going to do what I can to make this system work better. And in the meantime, Washington shouldn’t let disagreements over one issue be a deal-breaker on every issue. (Applause.) That’s not how our democracy works. You can’t disagree with one thing and then just say, all right, I’m going to take my ball away and go home. (Laughter.) And Congress certainly should not shut down the government again over this. Americans are tired of gridlock. We’re ready to move forward. (Applause.)
As you can imagine, I’ve gotten a lot of letters and a lot of emails about immigration over the past few days. And some have said it was a mistake for me to act. But then others remind me why I had to. One letter I got last week came from Brett Duncan, of Dawsonville, Georgia. And Brett is a Republican, and so he doesn’t really agree with me about anything. (Laughter.) Well, maybe everything. His ancestors came over from Scotland before the Civil War, so his immigration status is pretty much settled. (Laughter.) But he’s done missionary work overseas. He knows what it’s like to be a stranger. And over the years he’s gotten to know a lot of the new immigrants in his community. And here’s what he said. He said, “Their children are as American as I am. It would be senseless to deport their parents.” It would be bad for America.” “I believe,” Brett wrote, “that a human being, created in the very image of Almighty God, is the greatest resource we have in this country.” (Applause.)
So we’re not a nation that kicks out strivers and dreamers who want to earn their piece of the American Dream. We are a nation that fundamentally is strong, is special, is exceptional, because we find ways to welcome people, fellow human beings, children of God, into the fold, and harness their talents to make the future brighter for everybody.
We didn’t raise the Statue of Liberty with her back to the world. We did it facing the world — her light, her beacon shining. And whether we are — whether we cross the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we all shared one thing, and that’s the hope that America would be the place where we could believe as we choose, and pray as we choose, and start a business without paying a bribe, and that we could vote in an election without fearing reprisal, and that the law would be enforced equally for everybody, regardless of what you look like or what your last name was.
That’s the ideal that binds us all together. That’s what’s at stake when we have conversations about immigration. That’s what’s at stake when we have conversations about Ferguson — are we going to live up to those ideals of who we are as a people. And it falls on all of us to hand down to our kids a country that lives up to that promise, where America is the place where we can make it if we try. (Applause.)
So, thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
5:38 P.M. CST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 25, 2014
Source: WH, 11-22-14
WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President’s plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes. These are commonsense steps, but only Congress can finish the job. As the President acts, he’ll continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive, bipartisan bill — like the one passed by the Senate more than a year ago — that can replace these actions and fix the whole system.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Las Vegas, Nevada
November 22, 2014
Hi everybody. Today, I’m at Del Sol High School, in Las Vegas, to talk with students and families about immigration.
We are a nation of immigrants. It has always given America a big advantage over other nations. It keeps our country young, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.
That’s why, nearly two years ago, I came to this school and laid out principles for immigration reform. And five months later, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in the Senate came together to pass a commonsense compromise bill. That bill would have secured our border, while giving undocumented immigrants who already live here a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. Independent experts said it would grow our economy, and shrink our deficits.
Now, had the House of Representatives allowed a yes-or-no vote on that kind of bill, it would have passed with support from both parties. Today it would be the law. But for a year and a half, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. Now, I still believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together — both parties — to pass that kind of bipartisan law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President — the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me — that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.
I took those actions this week. We’re providing more resources at the border to help law enforcement personnel stop illegal crossings, and send home those who do cross over. We’ll focus enforcement resources on people who are threats to our security — felons, not families; criminals, not children. And we’ll bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules, pay their full share of taxes, pass a criminal background check, and get right with the law.
Nothing about this action will benefit anyone who has come to this country recently, or who might try and come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. And it’s certainly not amnesty, no matter how often the critics say it. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today — millions of people living here without paying their taxes, or playing by the rules. And the actions I took this week will finally start fixing that.
As you might have heard, there are Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better. Well, I have one answer for that: Pass a bill. The day I sign it into law, the actions I’ve taken to help solve this problem will no longer be necessary.
In the meantime, we can’t allow a disagreement over a single issue to be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works. This debate deserves more than politics as usual. It’s important for our future. It’s about who we are, and the future we want to build.
We are only here because this country welcomed our forebears, and taught them that being American is about more than what we look like or where we come from. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal — that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country we inherited, and it’s the one we have to leave for future generations.
Thank you, God bless you, and have a great weekend.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 22, 2014
Del Sol High School
Las Vegas, Nevada
12:50 P.M. PST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Las Vegas! (Applause.) Good to see you again — you were here two years ago. (Applause.) It’s good to be back at Del Sol High School –- go Dragons! (Applause.)
Let me just say that whenever I fly to Vegas on Air Force One, the plane is a little more crowded. (Laughter.) For some reason, folks want to come to Vegas. But today it was also crowded with a whole bunch of people who have been passionate about making sure America always remains a nation of immigrants, including your Senator, Harry Reid; the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi; some extraordinary members of Congress who have been leading on immigration reform — they are doing unbelievable work, and I want to just name a couple of them — and if I forget somebody, make sure I don’t get into trouble — from left to right, we’ve got Xavier Becerra, Ben Lujan, Luis Gutierrez, Dina Titus, Steve Horsford, and Bob Menendez. (Applause.) We’ve got the son-in-law of Cesar Chavez and a hero to farmworkers in his own right, Arturo Rodriguez. (Applause.)
And I just want to — and since we’re on farmworkers, a legend, somebody who has just been a great friend to working people all across the country, Dolores Huerta. Love you. (Applause.)
I’m so inspired by the introduction by Astrid. Last night, I spoke directly to the American people about immigration, and you heard me talk about Astrid. And if you watched her introduction just now, you heard her talk a little bit about herself.
She was brought here as a little girl, and grew up believing in America and in her identity as an American, just like Malia or Sasha. And then as she grew up, she found out that she was undocumented, which meant she couldn’t do all the things her friends could do. She feared that she and her brother could be separated from their dad. And then one day, she decided to start advocating for her fellow DREAMers, and to stand up for her family, and to fight to make a difference in this country that she loves.
And part of what makes America exceptional is that we welcome exceptional people like Astrid. (Applause.) It makes us stronger. It makes us vibrant and dynamic. It makes us hopeful. We are a nation of immigrants, and that means that we’re constantly being replenished with strivers who believe in the American Dream. And it gives us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It makes us entrepreneurial. It continues the promise that here in America, you can make it if you try, regardless of where you come from, regardless of the circumstances of your birth.
Our immigration system has been broken for a very long time — and everybody knows it. As Americans, we believe in fairness –- the idea that if we work hard and play by the rules, we can get ahead. But too often, the immigration system feels fundamentally unfair. You’ve got families who try to come here the right way but sometimes get separated, or stuck in line for years. You’ve got business owners who are doing the right thing by their workers, offering good wages and benefits, and then you’ve got companies that are ignoring minimum wage laws or overtime laws, taking advantage of undocumented immigrants, and as a consequence, undercutting the employers who are doing the right thing.
All of us take offense to the idea that anybody can reap the rewards of living in America without its responsibilities. And folks like Astrid and Astrid’s parents, who desperately want to make amends, embrace the responsibilities of living here — they’re forced to either live in the shadows or risk having their families torn apart.
We’ve known about this for years. And we’ve known we can do better. And for years, we haven’t done much about it. Well, today, we’re doing something about it. (Applause.)
Now, when I took office, I committed to fixing this broken system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders, because I do believe in secure borders. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Don’t let all the rhetoric fool you. There was a brief spike this summer in unaccompanied children being apprehended at the border, but it was temporary, and the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s, when I was in high school — and I’ve got gray hair now. (Laughter.) So it’s been a long time.
And nearly two years ago, I came here, Del Sol High School, right in this gymnasium — (applause) — and I said that the time had come for Congress to fix our broken immigration system. And I laid out some basic principles for reform that a lot of different parties could agree on. And what was remarkable was the consensus that started to develop. We had business leaders and labor leaders, and evangelical leaders, and law enforcement leaders; we had Republicans and we had Democrats and independents — and they all said that, yes, we should secure our borders, we should bring our legal immigration system into the 21st century, and then, once and for all, we should give the 11 million people living in the shadows a chance to make amends and earn their citizenship the right way.
So those were our principles. We laid them out. We were very clear. (Applause.) And after I laid out those principles, we then went to work with Congress. And we started in the Senate. And you ended up with a big majority of Democrats and Republicans and independents all coming together in the Senate to pass a bipartisan bill based on these principles.
The Senate bill wasn’t perfect; it was a compromise. That’s how things work in Congress. That’s how things work in a democracy. Not everybody was satisfied with every provision, but it was a good, solid, common-sense bill that would have made our immigration system a lot better.
It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents. So for those who wanted more border security, that was in the bill. It would have made the legal immigration system smarter and fairer. It would have given the opportunity for young people who are talented and who have gotten a degree — maybe in computer science or some technical field — to stay here and work, and contribute, and create a business, and create more jobs.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: You’re welcome. (Applause.) And it would have given millions of people that chance to get right with the law. But it wasn’t just a gift — they would have had to pay a fine. They would have had to learn English. They would have had to get to the back of the line. They would have had to pay back taxes.
It was a sensible bill, and all these members of Congress, they worked on it and were supportive of it. And independent experts — not me — people who analyze the economy for a living, they said that over two decades, the new law would grow our economy, shrink our deficits. In other words, it would help to solve some big problems in a bipartisan way. And nobody was happier than me. And when it passed the Senate, we said, all right, let’s send it over to the House, we’ve got the votes in the House. We’ve got Democrats and Republicans who were prepared to vote for it in the House. (Applause.)
It has now been 512 days — a year and a half — in which the only thing standing in the way of that bipartisan bill and my desk so that I can sign that bill, the only thing that’s been standing in the way is a simple yes-or-not vote in the House of Representatives. Just a yes-or-no vote. If they had allowed a vote on that kind of bill, it would have passed. I would have signed it. It would be the law right now.
These leaders right here tried to make it happen. Nancy Pelosi kept on saying to John Boehner, let’s just call the bill, see where it goes. There are Republicans who worked hard on this bill too, and they deserve credit. Because even though it wasn’t necessarily popular in their party, they knew it was the right thing to do.
But despite that, the party leadership in the House of Representatives would not let it come forward. And I cajoled and I called and I met. I told John Boehner, I’ll wash your car, I’ll walk your dog — (laughter) — whatever you need to do, just call the bill. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. And if the votes hadn’t been there, then we would have had to start over. But at least give it a shot — and he didn’t do it.
And the fact that a year and a half has gone by means that time has been wasted. And during that time, families have been separated. And during that time, businesses have been harmed. And we can’t afford it anymore.
Las Vegas, I have come back to Del Sol to tell you I’m not giving up. I will never give up. I will never give up. (Applause.) I will not give up.
AUDIENCE: Si se puede! Si se puede! Si se puede!
THE PRESIDENT: So we’re not giving up. We’re going to keep on working with members of Congress to make permanent reform a reality. But until that day comes, there are actions that I have the legal authority to take that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just. And this morning, I began to take some of those actions. (Applause.)
So I talked about — I thought — I talked about what I could do based on talking to all the legal experts, talking to the Office of Legal Counsel. And not everything that we want to do we can do, but they told me what we could do. And I wasn’t going to sit idly by and not do at least what I was authorized to do.
So first, we’re providing more resources to law enforcement so they can stem the flow of illegal crossings at our border and speed up the return of those who do cross over. I want to repeat that — border security is important.
Second, we’re making it easier for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy. (Applause.)
Third, we’re going to take steps to deal responsibly with millions of undocumented immigrants who are already here. (Applause.) Now, as I did last night, I want to spend some extra time talking about the third step, because this is the one that brings up the strongest passions on both sides.
The truth is, undocumented workers broke our immigration laws. They didn’t follow the rules in terms of how they were supposed to come. And I believe they should be held accountable. And some have proven to break other laws. Some are dangerous. That’s why over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’ll keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. But that means felons, not families. That means criminals, not children. It means gang members, not moms who are trying to put food on their — on the table for their kids. (Applause.)
So essentially what we’re doing is what law enforcement does every day. We’ve got limited resources, and so we’re going to prioritize who are the folks who should be subject to removal, and that means that we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got clear rules in terms of how we’re enforcing the law.
But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants, they live here. And many of them have been here a very long time. And they’re found in every state, and they’re of every race and every nationality. I know a lot of people focus on the Latino community, but the truth is that –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: — does not qualify!
THE PRESIDENT: — the truth is that they’re not just –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
AUDIENCE: Si se puede! Si se puede! Si se puede! (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right, not everybody will qualify under this provision. That’s the truth. And — that’s the truth. That’s why we’re still going to have to pass a bill. That’s why we’re still going to have to pass a bill. (Applause.)
So listen, I heard you, and what I’m saying is, we’re still going to have to pass a bill. This is not — this is a first step. It’s not the only step. We’re still going to have to do more work. (Applause.) So let — I’ve heard you. I’ve heard you, young man. I’ve heard you, and I understand. I’ve heard you. But what I’m saying is, this is just a first step. So, young man, I’m talking to a lot of people here. I’ve been respectful to you, I want you to be respectful to me, all right? Okay. (Applause.)
Now, understand that not everybody who comes here is Latino. Sometimes that’s the face of immigration. Let me tell you, I’m from Chicago. (Applause.) And we’ve got some Irish immigrants whose papers aren’t in order. We’ve got some Polish immigrants whose papers are not in order. We’ve got some Ukrainian folks. Down in Florida we’ve got some Haitian folks. This is not just a Latino issue, this is an American issue. (Applause.) This is an American issue.
And what we have to do is be honest — that tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people is not realistic. That’s not who we are. Most undocumented immigrants are good, decent people. They have been here for a long time. (Applause.) They work, often in the toughest, most low-paying jobs. They’re trying hard to support their families. They worship at our churches. Their kids go to school with our kids. (Applause.)
So the fact is that — even Republicans who say that they don’t want to pass this bill that was passed by these legislators, they’re not serious about trying to deport 10, 11 million people. That’s all rhetoric. Now, what we do expect is that people who are here play by the rules. You shouldn’t get rewarded for cutting in line.
So we’ve offered the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, you pass a background check, you are willing to pay your fair share of taxes –- then you’re going to be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows, get right with the law. (Applause.)
Now, let’s be clear on what this deal is, and what it isn’t. This action doesn’t apply to anybody who has come to this country recently. You can’t show up for a week and then suddenly apply — you can’t. Because borders mean something. It doesn’t apply to anybody who might come illegally in the future. While I support a path to citizenship — and so do all these legislators here — this action doesn’t grant citizenship, or the right to stay permanently, or receive the same benefits that citizens receive — only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you and separate you from your kids. (Applause.)
Now, if you’ve taken responsibility, you’ve registered, undergone a background check, you’re paying taxes, you’ve been here for five years, you’ve got roots in the community — you’re not going to be deported. And I know some critics call this action amnesty. It’s not amnesty. Amnesty really is the system we’ve got today. You’ve got millions of people who are living here, but they’re not obliged to pay their taxes or play by the rules, and then politicians just use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.
So they want to keep the system as is — people living in the shadows, maybe providing cheap labor, not subject to any worker protections, and then you pretend like you’re being tough on immigration. That’s not the right way to do it. That’s the real amnesty, just talking, leaving the broken system the way it is.
The bottom line is, mass amnesty would be unfair. But mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our country’s character. That’s not who we are. That’s not who we are. (Applause.)
So what we are offering is accountability. It is accountability. It’s a common-sense, middle-ground approach. If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows, you can get right with the law. If you are a criminal, you’re going to be deported. If you plan to enter the United States illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back are going up.
And for those who don’t qualify under this rule, we’re still going to need legislation. But the actions I’ve taken are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every Republican President and every Democratic President for the past half century. (Applause.) Ronald Reagan took action to keep families together. The first President Bush took action to shield about 40 percent of undocumented immigrants at the time. This isn’t something I’m doing as if it’s never been done. This kind of thing has been done before.
So when members of Congress question my authority to make our immigration system work better, I have a simple answer: Pass a bill. (Applause.) Pass a bill. Nobody is stopping them from passing a bill. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Pass a bill! Pass a bill! Pass a bill!
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, I got to admit, these days I don’t always listen to all the commentary — (laughter) — but I understand that some of them are already saying that my actions “sabotage” their ability to pass a bill and make immigration work better. Why? I didn’t dissolve parliament. That’s not how our system works. (Laughter.) I didn’t steal away the various clerks in the Senate and the House who manage bills. They can still pass a bill. I don’t have a vote in Congress — pass a bill. You don’t need me to call a vote to pass a bill. Pass a bill.
Because the actions I’ve taken are only a temporary first step. I don’t have the authority to do some really important reforms. We should be creating new programs for farmworkers. We should be adding visas for the high-tech sector. We should be creating a pathway to citizenship. But only Congress can do that.
The House could still pass the bipartisan Senate bill before the end of the year. (Applause.) They still have time. They’ve still got — what are you guys schedule to be in for, another four weeks. Right after Thanksgiving call the bill. It’s been sitting there. And if they don’t want to pass that bill, then I pledge to work with Republicans and Democrats next year to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, then the actions that I’ve taken will no longer be necessary. And I’ll give everybody credit. I’ll be happy to have John Boehner and Mitch McConnell alongside Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Luis Gutierrez and Bob Menendez and all these folks — we’ll all have a nice signing ceremony.
So I just want to emphasize this issue. Because I hear some people say, well, we’re in favor of immigration reform, but we don’t think that it should be done without Congress. Well, Congress, go ahead and do it.
And meanwhile, Washington should not let disagreements over one issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works. Congress certainly should not shut down the government again over this. Because Americans are tired of gridlock. We are ready to move forward. And we don’t want to — and we just want sensible, common-sense approaches to problems.
Now, this debate deserves more than the usual politics, because for all the back and forth in Washington, as I said last night, this is about something bigger. This is about who we are. Who do we want to be?
America is not a nation that accepts the hypocrisy of workers who mow our lawns, make our beds, clean out bedpans, with no chance ever to get right with the law. We’re a nation that gives people a chance to take responsibility and make amends, and then create a better future for their kids.
America is not a nation that should be tolerating the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms. We’re a nation that values families, and we should work together to keep them together. (Applause.)
America attracts talent from all around the world. We educate the world’s young people in our universities, and then we just send them home, even if they’re wanting to start a business or they’ve got some specialized skill. We just send them home, and then they compete against us. We should be encouraging the best and the brightest to study here and stay here, and invest here, and create jobs here and businesses here, and industries here. You look at Silicon Valley — 30, 40 percent of the companies that we now take for granted that have changed our lives, they were started by immigrants. (Applause.)
So that’s what this issue is all about. And that’s why it deserves reasoned and thoughtful and compassionate debate. And that’s why we have to focus not on our fears, we’ve got focus on our hopes.
You know, every day we receive thousands, tens of thousands of letters and emails at the White House. And as you can imagine, for the past few days, a lot of them have been about immigration. They’ve come from good, decent people on both sides of this debate. And I want to — I want everybody here to understand, there are folks who are good, decent people who are worried about immigration. They’re worried that it changes the fabric of our country. They’re worried about whether immigrants take jobs from hardworking Americans. And they’re worried because they’re feeling a lot of economic stress, and they feel as if maybe they’re the ones paying taxes and nobody else is taking responsibility. So they’ve urged me not to act.
And I hear them. And I understand them. But you know, I’ve also got a lot of letters and emails reminding me why we had to act — from American family members of hardworking immigrants who feared their families could be torn apart; from DREAMers who had proudly stepped out of the shadows and were willing to live without fear, even though it was a big risk for them; from Republicans who don’t agree with me on everything, but are tired of their party refusing to vote on reform.
One Republican who wrote me said this — he said he supported my decision, and he said — and I’m quoting — “I believe that a human being, created in the very image of Almighty God, is the greatest resource that we have in this country.” (Applause.)
We’re not a nation that kicks out strivers and dreamers who want to earn their piece of the American Dream. We’re a nation that finds a way to welcome them. We make them earn it, but we welcome them in as fellow human beings, fellow children of God. And we harness their talents to make the future brighter for everybody.
We didn’t raise the Statue of Liberty with her back to the world, we did it with her light shining as a beacon to the world. And whether we were Irish or Italians or Germans crossing the Atlantic, or Japanese or Chinese crossing the Pacific; whether we crossed the Rio Grande or flew here from all over the world — generations of immigrants have made this country into what it is. It’s what makes us special. (Applause.)
And whether we fled famine, or war, or persecution; whether we had the right documents, or connections, or skills; whether we were wealthy or poor — we all shared one thing, and that was hope that America would be the place where we could finally build a better life for ourselves and for our children, and for future generations. Hope that America is the place where we could make it.
That’s what makes us Americans. It’s not what we look like. It’s not what our last name is. It’s not where we come from. It’s not how we pray. What makes us American is a shared commitment to an ideal that all of us are created equal, all of us have a chance to make our lives what we will.
For generations, America — by choice and Americans by birth have come together to renew that common creed and move this country forward that brought us to this moment. That is the legacy that we now have to deliver to the next generation.
Thank you, Nevada. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
1:22 P.M. PST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 21, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 20, 2014
My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.
For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities — people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.
But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.
Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.
It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.
When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.
Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.
Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.
Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.
Tonight, I am announcing those actions.
First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.
Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.
Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.
I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable — especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.
But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants — in every state, of every race and nationality — will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.
As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”
Now here’s the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.
That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.
I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.
That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.
The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose – a higher purpose.
Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.
Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.
Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?
Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?
Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America?
That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.
I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.
Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.
Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid – or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?
Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.
My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.
That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 20, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 20, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 17, 2014
Source: WH, 11-16-14
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Center
4:19 P.M. AEST
PRESIDENT OBAMA:Thank you, everybody.Please have a seat.Good afternoon.I want to begin by thanking Prime Minister Abbott, the people of Brisbane, and the people of Australia for being such extraordinary hosts for the G20.All the arrangements were terrific and, as always, the people of Australia could not have been friendlier and better organized.So I very much appreciate everything that you have done.
We had a lot of good discussions during the course of the G20, but as our Australian friends say, this wasn’t just a “good old chinwag.”I really love that expression.(Laughter.)It was a productive summit.And so I want to thank Tony for his leadership, and the people of Brizzy truly did shine throughout this process with their hospitality.
This is the final day of a trip that has taken me across the Asia Pacific — a visit that comes against the backdrop of America’s renewed economic strength.The United States is in the longest stretch of uninterrupted private sector job growth in its history.Over the last few years, we’ve put more people back to work than all the other advanced economies combined.And this growing economic strength at home set the stage for the progress that we have made on this trip.It’s been a good week for American leadership and for American workers.
We made important progress in our efforts to open markets to U.S. goods and to boost the exports that support American jobs.We continue to make progress toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership.Our agreement with China to extend visas for business people, tourists and students is going to boost tourism, grow our two economies and create jobs for Americans and Chinese alike.We also agreed with China to pursue a bilateral investment treaty, as well as agreeing on an approach to the Information Technology Agreement that is estimated would support some 60,000 American jobs.And here at the G20, China committed to greater transparency on its economic data, including its foreign exchange reserves.And this is a step toward the market-driven exchange rate that we’ve been pushing for because it would promote a level playing field for American businesses and American workers.
Here in Brisbane, all the G20 countries announced strategies to increase growth and put people back to work, including a new initiative to support jobs by building infrastructure.Our nations made commitments that could bring another 100 million women into our collective workforce.We took new steps toward strengthening our banks, closing tax loopholes for multinational companies, and stopping tax evaders and criminals from hiding behind shell companies.And these were all very specific provisions.These were not just goals that were set without any substance behind them.We have made very concrete progress during the course of the last several G20 sessions in preventing companies from avoiding the taxes that they owe in their home countries, including the United States, and making sure that we’ve got a financial system that’s more stable and that can allow a bank to fail without taxpayers having to bail them out.
Meanwhile, the breakthrough the United States achieved with India this week allows for a resumption of talks on a global trade deal that would mean more growth and prosperity for all of us.
This week, we also took historic steps in the fight against climate change.The ambitious new goal that I announced in Beijing will double the pace at which America reduces its carbon pollution while growing our economy and creating jobs, strengthening our energy security, and putting us on the path to a low carbon future.Combined with China’s commitment — China for the first time committed to slowing and then peaking and then reversing the course of its emissions — we’re showing that there’s no excuse for other nations to come together, both developed and developing, to achieve a strong global climate agreement next year.
The $3 billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund that I announced yesterday will help developing nations deal with climate change, reduce their carbon pollution and invest in clean energy.I want to commend, by the way, Prime Minister Abe and Japan for their $1.5 billion pledge to the Fund.And following the steps we’ve taken in the United States, many of the G20 countries agreed to work to improve the efficiency of heavy-duty vehicles, which would be another major step in reducing emissions.
And finally, I’m pleased that more nations are stepping up and joining the United States in the effort to end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.Coming on the heels of our Global Health Security Agenda in the United States, the G20 countries committed to helping nations like those in West Africa to build their capacity to prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks before they become epidemics.
So from trade to climate change to the fight against Ebola, this was a strong week for American leadership.And the results will be more jobs for the American people; historic steps towards a cleaner and healthier planet; and progress towards saving lives not just in West Africa, but eventually in other places.If you ask me, I’d say that’s a pretty good week.The American people can be proud of the progress that we’ve made.I intend to build on that momentum when I return home tomorrow.
And with that, I am going to take a few questions.I’ve got my cheat-sheet here.And we’re going to start with Matt Spetalnick of Reuters.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.Some of your fellow G20 leaders took an in-your-face approach with President Putin.You had conversations —
PRESIDENT OBAMA:I’m sorry, with President —
Q With President Putin.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:Oh, I see.
Q Took a kind of confrontational approach to him.You had brief discussions with him at APEC.How confrontational or not were those encounters?Did you have any further exchanges with him here?What, if any, progress did you make with him on the Ukraine issue?And, of course, you’ve now just met with EU leaders.Did you agree on further sanctions?
One other question, sir, on a domestic subject.Are you prepared to state unequivocally that if Congress does pass a Keystone pipeline bill, that you would veto it if it comes to your desk?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:I had naturally several interactions with President Putin during the course of the APEC Summit and then here at G20.I would characterize them as typical of our interactions, which are businesslike and blunt.And my communications to him was no different than what I’ve said publicly as well as what I’ve said to him privately over the course of this crisis in Ukraine, and that is Russia has the opportunity to take a different path, to resolve the issue of Ukraine in a way that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and is consistent with international law.That is our preference, and if it does so then I will be the first to suggest that we roll back the sanctions that are, frankly, having a devastating effect on the Russian economy.
If he continues down the path that he is on — violating international law; providing heavy arms to the separatists in Ukraine; violating an agreement that he agreed to just a few weeks ago, the Minsk Agreement, that would have lowered the temperature and the killing in the disputed areas and make providing us a pathway for a diplomatic resolution — then the isolation that Russia is currently experiencing will continue.
And in my meeting with European leaders, they confirmed their view that so far Russia has not abided by either the spirit or the letter of the agreement that Mr. Putin signed — or agreed to, and that as a consequence we are going to continue to maintain the economic isolation while maintaining the possibility of a diplomatic solution.
It is not our preference to see Russia isolated the way it is.We would prefer a Russia that is fully integrated with the global economy; that is thriving on behalf of its people; that can once again engage with us in cooperative efforts around global challenges.But we’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles.And one of those principles is, is that you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies and support them in ways that break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections.
Q Did you discuss or agree with them on further sanctions?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:At this point, the sanctions that we have in place are biting plenty good.We retain the capabilities, and we have our teams constantly looking at mechanisms in which to turn up additional pressure as necessary.
With respect to Keystone, I’ve said consistently — and I think I repeated in Burma, but I guess I’ve got to answer it one more — we’re going to let the process play itself out.And the determination will be made in the first instance by the Secretary of State.But I won’t hide my opinion about this, which is that one major determinant of whether we should approve a pipeline shipping Canadian oil to world markets, not to the United States, is does it contribute to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.
Q What were your comments on the pipeline —
PRESIDENT OBAMA:Matt, I got to move on, man.Everybody wants to go home.All right?Other people have questions.Jim Acosta, CNN.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.I wanted to ask you about the climate deal that you agreed to with Chinese President Xi, and on that front but also adding in your expected executive action on immigration, that you’re taking executive actions on a multitude of fronts.And I wanted to ask you, sir, what is stopping a future Republican President, or even a Democratic President, from reversing your executive orders?And are you expanding the powers of the presidency in ways that could potentially backfire on your agenda down the road?
And on the battle against ISIS — your Joint Chiefs Chairman, Martin Dempsey, is in Iraq right now, but at a congressional hearing last week he said he could envision a scenario in which ground forces could be engaged in combat in Iraq alongside Iraqi security forces.I know you’ve ruled out the possibility of having ground forces — U.S. ground forces engaged in combat going house to house and so forth.Has your thinking on that changed somewhat, and might General Dempsey be able to convince you otherwise?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:Okay.With respect to the climate agreement, the goal that we’ve set — a 26 to 28 percent reduction by 2025 — we shaped that target based on existing authorities rather than the need for additional congressional action.
And I want to be clear here, Jim, that that’s based not on particular executive actions that I’m taking, but based on the authority that’s been upheld repeatedly by this Supreme Court for the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, to be able to shape rules to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases.
Obviously it’s supplemented by a bunch of stuff that we’re doing that nobody suggests isn’t within our authority.For example, the doubling of fuel-efficiency standards on cars is something that we negotiated with the car companies and with labor groups, and is working really well and we’re selling a lot of American cars domestically as well as internationally.And they are more fuel-efficient cars and, as a consequence, more popular cars.
With respect to executive actions generally, the record will show that I have actually taken fewer executive actions than my predecessors.Nobody disputes that.What I think has changed is the reaction of some of my friends in Congress to exercising what are normal and, frankly, fairly typical exercises of presidential authority.
You are absolutely right that the very nature of an executive action means that a future President could reverse those actions.But that’s always been true.That was true when I came into office; if President Bush had a bunch of executive actions that he had signed, it was part of my authority to reverse them.That’s why, for example, on immigration reform it continues to be my great preference to see Congress pass comprehensive legislation, because that is not reversed by a future President, it would have to be reversed by a future Congress.That’s part of the reason why I’ve argued consistently that we’re better off if we can get a comprehensive deal through Congress.That’s why I showed extraordinary patience with Congress in trying to work a bipartisan deal. That’s why I was so encouraged when the Senate produced a bipartisan immigration deal and why I waited for over a year for Speaker Boehner to call that bipartisan bill in the House.
But as I’ve said before, I can’t wait in perpetuity when I have authorities that, at least for the next two years, can improve the system, can allow us to shift more resources to the border rather than separating families; improve the legal immigration system.I would be derelict in my duties if I did not try to improve the system that everybody acknowledges is broken.
With respect to Syria, Chairman Dempsey I think has consistently said in all his testimony, and I would expect him to always do this, to give me his best military advice and to not be constrained by politics.And he has not advised me that I should be sending U.S. troops to fight.What he said in testimony, and what I suspect he’ll always say, is that, yes, there are circumstances in which he could envision the deployment of U.S. troops.That’s true everywhere, by the way.That’s his job, is to think about various contingencies.And, yes, there are always circumstances in which the United States might need to deploy U.S. ground troops.
If we discovered that ISIL had gotten possession of a nuclear weapon, and we had to run an operation to get it out of their hands, then, yes, you can anticipate that not only would Chairman Dempsey recommend me sending U.S. ground troops to get that weapon out of their hands, but I would order it.So the question just ends up being, what are those circumstances.I’m not going speculate on those.Right now we’re moving forward in conjunction with outstanding allies like Australia in training Iraqi security forces to do their job on the ground.
Q — your thinking on that has not changed?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:My thinking has not changed currently.
Ed Henry of Fox.
Q Thank you.One question, I promise.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:That’s great.(Laughter.)
Q At your Burma town hall a couple days ago you tried to inspire young leaders by saying governments need to be held accountable and be responsive to the people.I wonder how you square that with your former advisor, Jonathan Gruber, claiming you were not transparent about the health law?Because in his words, the American people, the voters are stupid.Did you mislead Americans about the taxes, about keeping your plan, in order to get the bill passed?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:No, I did not.I just heard about this.I get well briefed before I come out here.The fact that some advisor who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters, is no reflection on the actual process that was run.
We had a year-long debate, Ed.I mean, go back and look at your stories.The one thing we can’t say is that we did not have a lengthy debate about health care in the United States of America, or that it was not adequately covered.I mean, I would just advise all of — every press outlet here:Go back and pull up every clip, every story, and I think it’s fair to say that there was not a provision in the health care law that was not extensively debated and was fully transparent.
Now, there were folks who disagreed with some of these various positions.It was a tough debate.But the good news is — and I know this wasn’t part of your question — but since some folks back home who don’t have health insurance may be watching, open enrollment just started, which means that those who did not take advantage of the marketplaces the first time around, they’ve got another chance to sign up for affordable health care; they may be eligible for a tax credit.
So far, there were over half a million successful logins on the first day.Healthcare.gov works really well now — 1.2 million people using the window-shopping function since Sunday.There were 23,000 applications completed in just the first eight hours, and tens of thousands more throughout the day.
Health care is working.More than 10 million people have already gotten health insurance; millions more are eligible.And contrary to some of the predictions of the naysayers, not only is the program working, but we’ve actually seen health care inflation lower than it’s been in 50 years, which is contributing to us reducing the deficit, and has the effect of making premiums for families lower that they otherwise would have been if they have health insurance.
All right?Kristen Welker.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.I’d like to ask you again about Syria.When you were recently asked about the U.S. campaign against ISIS, you said, “It’s too early to say whether we are winning.”You went on to say, “This is going to be a long-term plan.”There are now reports that you have ordered a review of your entire Syria policy.So I’d like to put the question to you today:Are you currently recalibrating your policy in Syria?And does that include plans to remove President Bashar al-Assad?And was it a miscalculation not to focus on the removal of Assad initially?Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:We have a weekly meeting with my CENTCOM Commander, with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, with all our diplomatic personnel related to the region, as well as my national security team, and Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, intelligence teams, to assess what kind of progress are we making both in Iraq and in Syria with respect to ISIL.And I will be having weekly meetings as long as this campaign lasts, because I think it’s very important for us to get it right.
We have not had a comprehensive review of Syria.We’ve had a comprehensive review of what are we doing each and every week — what’s working, what’s not.Some of it is very detailed at the tactical level.Some of it is conceptual.We continue to learn about ISIL — where its weaknesses are; how we can more effectively put pressure on them.And so nothing extraordinary, nothing formal of the sort that you describe has taken place.
Certainly no changes have taken place with respect to our attitude towards Bashar al-Assad.And I’ve said this before, but let me reiterate:Assad has ruthlessly murdered hundreds of thousands of his citizens, and as a consequence has completely lost legitimacy with the majority of the country.For us to then make common cause with him against ISIL would only turn more Sunnis in Syria in the direction of supporting ISIL, and would weaken our coalition that sends a message around the region this is not a fight against Sunni Islam, this is a fight against extremists of any stripe who are willing to behead innocent people or kill children, or mow down political prisoners with the kind of wanton cruelty that I think we’ve very rarely seen in the modern age.
And so we have communicated to the Syrian regime that when we operate going after ISIL in their air space, that they would be well-advised not to take us on.But beyond that, there’s no expectation that we are going to in some ways enter an alliance with Assad.He is not credible in that country.
Now, we are looking for a political solution eventually within Syria that is inclusive of all the groups who live there — the Alawite, the Sunni, Christians.And at some point, the people of Syria and the various players involved, as well as the regional players — Turkey, Iran, Assad’s patrons like Russia — are going to have to engage in a political conversation.
And it’s the nature of diplomacy in any time, certainly in this situation, where you end up having diplomatic conversations potentially with people that you don’t like and regimes that you don’t like.But we’re not even close to being at that stage yet.
Q But just to put a fine point on it — are you actively discussing ways to remove him as a part of that political transition?
Q Thank you, Mr. President.As you well know, the continuing resolution expires on December 11th.Many things you’ve talked about on this trip are related to that:funding for coalition operations in Iraq and Syria, the Ebola outbreak, not to mention day-to-day government operations.What are the odds the country will see itself in a shutdown scenario?How much do you fear the government will shut down?And to what degree does your anxiety about this or your team’s anxiety about this influence the timing of your decision on immigration and executive action?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:I take Mitch McConnell at his word when he says that the government is not going to shut down.There is no reason for it to shut down.We traveled down that path before.It was bad for the country, it was bad for every elected official in Washington.And at the end of the day, it was resolved in the same way that it would have been resolved if we hadn’t shut the government down.So that’s not going to be productive, and I think that Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner understand that.
But this goes to a broader point that I’ve made previously and I’ll just reiterate:It is in the nature of democracy that the parties are going to disagree on certain issues.And in our system, because we don’t have a parliamentary system, it means that you can have a Congress of one party and a President of another, and they disagree on some really fundamental issues.And the question then is, how do you deal with that?Well, the sensible way to deal with it is to say here are the issues we don’t agree on, and we’ll fight like heck for our position and then we’ll work together on the issues that we do agree on.And that’s how it’s always been; that’s how it was with Ronald Reagan when he was dealing with a Democratic Congress.There was no — at no point did the Democrats say, well, because we don’t agree with Ronald Reagan on X,Y,Z issue, then we can’t work with him on Social Security reform or tax reform or other issues.He said, okay, we’ll fight on that, we’ll join together on that, and as a consequence the co
ntry will make progress.
And I would expect that same attitude in this instance.I understand that there are members of the Republican Party who deeply disagree with me and law enforcement and the evangelical community and a number of their own Republican colleagues about the need for immigration reform, I get that.And they’ve made their views clear and there’s nothing wrong with them arguing their position and opposing legislation.But why they would then decide we’re going to shut down the government makes about as much sense as my decision to shut down the government if they decide to take a vote to repeal health care reform for the — is it 53rd or 55th time?I mean, I understand that there’s a difference there, but let’s keep on doing the people’s business.
Q Does the shutdown anxiety in any way affect your timing at all on immigration action?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:No, I think the main concern I have is making sure that we get it right, and that’s what we’re focused on at this point, because any executive action that I take is going to require some adjustments to how DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, operates where it’s deploying resources, et cetera; how are folks processed; what priorities are set up.And so I want to make sure that we’ve crossed all our T’s and dotted all our I’s — that that’s my main priority.
And we are going to close with Jim Avila.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.Following up on immigration — in 2010, when asked by immigration reform advocates to stop deportations and act alone on providing legal status for the undocumented, you said, “I’m President, I’m not king.I can’t do these things just by myself.”In 2013, you said, “I’m not the emperor of the United States.My job is to execute laws that are passed.”Mr. President, what has changed since then?And since you’ve now had a chance to talk since July with your legal advisors, what do you now believe are your limits so that you can continue to act as President and not as emperor or king?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:Well, actually, my position hasn’t changed.When I was talking to the advocates, their interest was in me, through executive action, duplicating the legislation that was stalled in Congress.And getting a comprehensive deal of the sort that is in the Senate legislation, for example, does extend beyond my legal authorities.There are certain things I cannot do.There are certain limits to what falls within the realm of prosecutorial discretion in terms of how we apply existing immigration laws.
And what we’ve continued to do is to talk to Office of Legal Counsel that’s responsible for telling us what the rules are, what the scope of our operations are, and determining where it is appropriate for us to say we’re not going to deport 11 million people.On the other hand, we’ve got severe resource constraints right now at the border not in apprehending people, but in processing and having enough immigration judges and so forth.And so what’s within our authority to do in reallocating resources and reprioritizing since we can’t do everything.And it’s on that basis that I’ll be making a decision about any executive actions that I might take.
I will repeat what I have said before:There is a very simple solution to this perception that somehow I’m exercising too much executive authority.Pass a bill I can sign on this issue.If Congress passes a law that solves our border problems, improves our legal immigration system, and provides a pathway for the 11 million people who are here working in our kitchens, working in farms, making beds in hotels, everybody knows they’re there, we’re not going to deport all of them.We’d like to see them being able, out in the open, to pay their taxes, pay a penalty, get right with the law.Give me a bill that addresses those issues — I’ll be the first one to sign it and, metaphorically, I’ll crumple up whatever executive actions that we take and we’ll toss them in the wastebasket, because we will now have a law that addresses these issues.
Q But in those five months, sir, since you said you were going to act, have you received the legal advice from the Attorney General about what limits you have -–
Q — and what you can do?
Q And would you tell us what those are?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:No.(Laughter.)I will tell them when I make the announcement.But it’s a good try, though.That was a good angle.(Laughter.)Jim and I go way back, although he was famous, I was not.He used to be a broadcaster in Chicago, so I used to watch him on TV.You’ve aged a little better than I have.(Laughter.)
All right.The people of Australia, thank you again for your wonderful hospitality.(Applause.)
4:51 P.M. AEST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 16, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 13, 2014
Source: WH, 11-7-14
Old Family Dining Room
12:52 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to thank the leadership of both the House and the Senate for being here for this lunch, post-election. As I said the other night, obviously Republicans had a good night, and I’ve congratulated both Mitch McConnell as well as Speaker Boehner for running very strong campaigns.
As I also said the day after the election, what we’ve seen now for a number of cycles is that the American people just want to see work done here in Washington. I think they’re frustrated by the gridlock. They’d like to see more cooperation. And I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen. And so this gives us a good opportunity to explore where we can make progress on behalf of the people who sent us here.
The good news is, today we saw another good set of jobs numbers. We’ve now had 56 consecutive months of job growth; more than 10.6 million jobs have been created. And the unemployment rate now is down to 5.8 percent.
So business is out there investing, hiring. The economic indicators are going in the right direction. As I travel to Asia for the G20 Summit, I’m going to be able to say that we’ve actually created more jobs here in the United States than every other advanced country combined. And they notice that we’re doing something right here. But what we also know is that the American people are still anxious about their futures, and that means that what we can do together to ensure that young people can afford college; what we can do together to rebuild our infrastructure so we’re competitive going forward; what we can do together to make sure that we’ve got a tax system that is fair and simple, and unleashes the dynamism of the economy; what we can do together to make sure that we keep the progress that we’ve been making in reducing the deficit while still making the investments we need to grow.
Those are all going to be areas where I’m very interested in hearing and sharing ideas. And then the one thing that I’ve committed to both Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell is that I am not going to judge ideas based on whether they’re Democratic or Republican; I’m going to be judging them based whether or not they work. And I’m confident that they want to produce results, as well, on behalf of the American people.
So I appreciate their graciousness in coming here. And I’m very much looking forward to giving them some updates on progress we’ve been making on issues like Ebola and ISIL. There’s going to be some specific work that has to get done during the next several weeks before the new Congress commences. And my hope is, is that even as we enter into a new Congress, the previous Congress has the opportunity still to make progress on a whole bunch of fronts, and I’m confident we can get that done.
So thank you again.
Q Have you made a decision on an Attorney General, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: You’re going to be the first to find out, Major, along with everybody else.
Thank you, everybody.
12:56 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 7, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 28, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 22, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 19, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 12, 2014
Source: WH, 10-11-14
WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President made the case for why it’s past time to raise the minimum wage. Increasing the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would benefit 28 million Americans, and make our economy stronger. While Republicans in Congress have blocked this commonsense proposal, a large and growing coalition of state and local leaders and owners of businesses large and small have answered the President’s call and raised wages for their residents and employees. This progress is important, but there is more that can be done. No American who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. That’s why the President will continue to push Congress to take action and give America its well-deserved raise.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, October 11, 2014.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
October 11, 2014
Hi, everybody. For the first time in more than 6 years, the unemployment rate is below 6%. Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs. That’s the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history.
But while our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the ‘90s, the typical family hasn’t seen a raise since the ‘90s also. Folks are feeling as squeezed as ever. That’s why I’m going to keep pushing policies that will create more jobs faster and raise wages faster – policies like rebuilding our infrastructure, making sure women are paid fairly, and making it easier for young people to pay off their student loans.
But one of the simplest and fastest ways to start helping folks get ahead is by raising the minimum wage.
Ask yourself: could you live on $14,500 a year? That’s what someone working full-time on the minimum wage makes. If they’re raising kids, that’s below the poverty line. And that’s not right. A hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.
Right now, a worker on the federal minimum wage earns $7.25 an hour. It’s time to raise that to $10.10 an hour.
Raising the federal minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents an hour, or ten-ten, would benefit 28 million American workers. 28 million. And these aren’t just high schoolers on their first job. The average worker who would benefit is 35 years old. Most low-wage workers are women. And that extra money would help them pay the bills and provide for their families. It also means they’ll have more money to spend at local businesses – which grows the economy for everyone.
But Congress hasn’t voted to raise the minimum wage in seven years. Seven years. And when it got a vote earlier this year, Republicans flat-out voted “no.” That’s why, since the first time I asked Congress to give America a raise, 13 states, 21 cities and D.C. have gone around Congress to raise their workers’ wages. Five more states have minimum wage initiatives on the ballot next month. More companies are choosing to raise their workers’ wages. A recent survey shows that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to ten-ten an hour, too. And I’ve done what I can on my own by requiring federal contractors to pay their workers at least ten-ten an hour.
On Friday, a coalition of citizens – including business leaders, working moms, labor unions, and more than 65 mayors – told Republicans in Congress to stop blocking a raise for millions of hard-working Americans. Because we believe that in America, nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. And I’m going to keep up this fight until we win. Because America deserves a raise right now. And America should forever be a place where your hard work is rewarded.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 11, 2014