WASHINGTON - During his annual State of the Union address, President Obama said we should continue to work on fixing our broken immigration system. The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan, non-profit pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.
The President was right to focus much of his address on the economic and jobs crisis, but comprehensive immigration reform is integral to healing the American economy, and thus far, this administration has fallen short. For more than two years, the National Immigration Forum has been urging the President to play a more active leadership role and keep his promise to reform the broken immigration system. Simultaneously, we have been pressuring Republican leaders to work with Democrats to present a plan to fix this problem once and for all. What we have seen so far, from both sides, on the unfinished business of immigration reform has been tremendously disappointing.
Tonight we didn’t hear a plan from the President, and we’ve never seen one from Republicans. The majority of Americans want a bipartisan immigration solution that levels the playing field for American workers, holds crooked employers accountable, secures our nation, and requires the undocumented to pay taxes, get right with the law and legalize their status. Americans are tired of the divisive politics of yesterday, and it is time for a solution that moves us forward together.
Fixing our broken immigration system will take commitment and hard work from leaders in both parties, and since last year we have heard a lot of talk about the desperate need to fix this problem. While the President missed an opportunity to lay out his vision to solve this problem to the American people, the Republicans have had no plan at all. Instead, they’ve allowed some of the loudest and most irresponsible voices in their party to drive the immigration reform debate.
The Latino, Asian and immigrant community are left to wonder whether President Obama and Congressional leaders are serious about keeping their promise to fix the broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate must do more than sit together as they did at tonight’s address. They must work with each other and the President to create a responsible, fair, and practical solution to the broken immigration system.
Republicans must put aside the rhetoric that has defined their positions on immigration, and instead commit to a civil debate that focuses on facts and practical, real solutions. The American people have given our elected leaders the solemn responsibility of governing and Republicans should avoid the irresponsible demagoguery and demonization of immigrants coming from some vocal members of their ranks like Congressman Lamar Smith.
The tone of our debate matters. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and with differing perspectives on immigration must show the American people that they can work with their colleagues and solve tough problems. Comprehensive immigration reform requires bipartisan support and represents a valuable opportunity for both parties to prove to the American public that they can work together without poisonous rhetoric and deliver for the American people.
We look forward to working with the President and Congressional leaders on bipartisan solutions to our badly broken immigration system.