President Obama dedicated significant attention to immigration reform in his State of the Union address last night. To set the tone, he introduced the issue by tying it to the economy:
Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Because border security and the “enforcement first” mentality has historically impeded us from moving the immigration debate forward, the president then made the case that the border is already secure. He pointed to his administration’s track record of “putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.”
On the question of the 11 million undocumented people in the United States, the president outlined what a responsible, earned path to citizenship would include:
…passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.
The problem with “going to the back of the line,” however, is that it could last decades, even longer than a lifetime, for many aspiring citizens who are already part of our schools and communities. While the president did address the need to cut waiting times and reduce bureaucracy, Congress must increase the availability of green cards to make “the line” practical and fair. (Read more about NAFSA’s specific recommendations on green cards at www.nafsa.org/113thcongress.)
Before moving on to other economic issues in his address, the president signaled the urgency for immigration reform.
Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away and America will be better for it.