Full Text Obama Presidency February 4, 2015: President Barack Obama Remarks in Meeting with DREAMers

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Meeting with DREAMers

Source: WH,  2-4-15

Oval Office

11:47 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ve just had a chance to meet with these six wonderful young people who represent the very best that this country has to offer.  And what sets them apart is that they all came here, were brought here by their parents, and up until recently have had a very difficult situation because of their immigration status.

The stories you hear from these young people are parents who aspired for a better life for their children; these folks coming here at the age of four months, or seven months, or 9-year-olds or 10-year-olds, oftentimes not realizing that their status was any different than their classmates and their friends and their neighbors.  In some cases, they didn’t discover until they were about to go to college that there was a difference that might prevent them from giving back to their community and their country.

And because of the executive actions that we took with respect to DREAM Act kids, and because of the executive actions that I announced late last year with respect to many of their parents, what I’ve heard is life is transformed.  Young people who didn’t think it would be possible for themselves to go to college suddenly are going to college.  Young people who didn’t think that it might be possible to start a business suddenly find themselves in a position to look at starting a business.  Young people who have memories of their mothers weeping because they couldn’t go to the funeral of their parent now have seen the prospect, the hope, that their lives can stabilize and normalize in some way.

I don’t think there’s anybody in America who’s had a chance to talk to these six young people who or the young DREAMers all across the country who wouldn’t find it in their heart to say these kids are Americans just like us and they belong here and we want to do right by them.

And so often in this immigration debate it’s an abstraction and we don’t really think about the human consequences of our positions.  And part of the reason that I wanted to hear from these young people today, and part of the reason why I’ve heard from young DREAMers in the past is because it’s a constant reminder to me of why this is important.

Now, the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would have these six young people deported.  I think that’s wrong.  And I think most Americans would think it was wrong if they had a chance to meet these young people.  And legislation is going to be going to the Senate that, again, tries to block these executive actions.  I want to be as clear as possible:  I will veto any legislation that got to my desk that took away the chance of these young people who grew up here and who are prepared to contribute to this country that would prevent them from doing so.  And I am confident that I can uphold that veto.

So as we move forward in this debate over the next several months, the next year, the next year and a half, I would call on members of Congress to think about all the talent that is already in this country, that is already working in many cases, is already making contributions — in some cases, are joining up in our military, or are already starting businesses, are already attending school — and let’s be true to our tradition as a nation of immigrants and as a nation of laws.

My strong preference is going to be to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  And I know that there are Republicans out there who want to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  In the Senate, they’ve shown that they are prepared to do the right thing.  And rather than continue trying to go back to a system that everybody acknowledges was broken, let’s move forward with the incredible promise that these young people represent.

The last point I’ll make:  There have been suggestions that we will not fund the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for patrolling our borders, as well as keeping our air travel safe, as well as patrolling our coasts — there’s been talk about not funding that department because of the disagreement around immigration reform.  There’s no logic to that position.  Particularly for Republicans who claim that they are interested in strong border security, why would you cut off your nose to spite your face by defunding the very operations that are involved in making sure that we’ve got strong border security, particularly at a time when we’ve got real concerns about countering terrorism?

So my strong suggestion would be that Congress go ahead, fund the Department of Homeland Security.  We’re doing a tremendous amount of work at the borders.  The concerns that people had about unaccompanied children tragically traveling from Central America, that spike has now diminished.  We are below the levels that we were two years ago.  We are working diligently with the Central American countries to make sure that young people there have hope and that their parents are getting a clear message of not sending them on this extraordinarily dangerous journey.

Let’s make sure the Department of Homeland Security is properly funded, we’re doing the right things at the borders, we’re doing the right things with respect to our airports.  And then let’s get back to first principles; and remind ourselves that each of these young people here are going to be doing incredible things on behalf of this country.

And to all the DREAMers who are out there and all those who qualify for my executive action moving forward, I want you to know that I am confident in my ability to implement this program over the next two years, and I’m confident that the next President and the next Congress and the American people will ultimately recognize why this is the right thing to do.  So I’m going to want all of you to get information so you can sign up if you qualify as well.  All right?

Thank you very much, everybody.  And thank you, guys, for sharing your incredible stories.

END
11:56 A.M. EST

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Full Text Obama Presidency November 25, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Immigration in Chicago — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Immigration — Chicago, IL

Source: WH, 11-25-14

Copernicus Center
Chicago, Illinois

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.)

END
5:38 P.M. CST

 

Political Musings November 25, 2014: Obama heckled during Chicago immigration speech by protesters over deportations

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama heckled during Chicago immigration speech by protesters over deportations

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama is finding out that the American public is less and less enamored by his rhetoric and policies. During a speech, Obama delivered in hometown of Chicago at the Copernicus Center on Tuesday evening, Nov. 25, 2014 about…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 22, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Immigration Accountability Executive Action — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Immigration Accountability Executive Action

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
Weekly Address
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.

Full Text Obama Presidency November 21, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Immigration Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Immigration

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.)

END
1:22 P.M. PST

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