January 29th, 2013
03:27 PM ET

Obama lays out his plan to overhaul immigration

  • President Obama's comments follow announcement from bipartisan senators on their immigration plan
  • We'll listen and help explain the differences the president has with the bipartisan Senate group

[Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET] Politicians are beginning to weigh in with their views on Twitter.

Perhaps no surprise, but House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has high praise for Obama's announcement.

Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright from Pennsylvania hit on one of the specifics Obama spoke about: Business.

And Republican Sen. John McCain, one of the senators who hammered out the bipartisan Senate proposal, tweeted a statement that he appreciated Obama's support of a bipartisan solution.

But he also noted, "The road ahead will be not be easy," but he is "cautiously optimistic" Democrats and Republicans can find common ground.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, also a member of the group behind the bipartisan Senate proposal, made clear where he thinks Obama differs from the senators:

[Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET] President Obama has done his part by beginning the conversation. Soon it will be time to wrangle over the specifics.

The White House has put out a fact sheet outlining the key principles motivating his overhaul of immigration and the areas he intends to focus on.

You can read the plan here.

[Updated at 3:27 p.m. ET] CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger believes Obama's efforts have a better chance of succeeding than President George W. Bush and Sen. Ted Kennedy's attempts because there is more consensus that something needs to be done about immigration.

One question will dominate the debate, she said.

"How do you judge whether the borders are secure? That’s going to be a very big question as the senators try to map this out."

[Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET] A tweet from the president's account a few minutes ago has already been retweeted hundreds of times.

[Updated at 3:18 p.m. ET] Emory University law professor Polly Price told CNN there has been one flaw in American enforcement policy.

"What it has not done in the past is track people who are leaving, so usually they don’t know if someone here on a temporary visa has overstayed that visa," she said.

"It’s terribly important that there be an emphasis on enforcement," she added, but it's not been lacking under this administration.

Obama has deployed more enforcement than any previous president, but she suspects he'll expend some political capital to make sure immigrants have a pathway to citizenship, she said.

[Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET] Here's an early response from a Republican in the House of Representatives, which of course will play a key role if there is to be new legislation.

Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pennsylvania, a critic of the Obama proposals, said we need to deal with the issue of visas and border security. Creating a path to citizenship before you deal with those issues is sending the wrong message.

“We’re talking about replacing the carpet when we still have a hole in the roof,” he said.

He further said he believes this is a political solution more than a practical one and estimates that it could cost as much as $2.7 trillion in things like unemployment, Medicare and and welfare to create such a pathway to citizenship.

[Updated at 3:08 p.m. ET] The president leaves the stage, now it's time for the analysis and reaction to what he said.

CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger said she believes Obama is playing good cop-bad cop, with his own left-leaning proposals being the bad cop and his Senate colleagues being the good cop. He's essentially saying, "If you don’t deal with them, you’re going to deal with me. Who would you rather deal with?" Borger said.

[Updated at 3:07 p.m. ET] "In the coming weeks, as the idea of reform becomes more real and the debate becomes more heated and there are folks who are trying to pull this thing apart, remember Alan and all those who share the same hopes and the same dreams. Remember this is not just a debate about policy, it’s about people. It’s about men and women and young people who want nothing more than the chance to earn their way into the American story," Obama said after telling one man's immigrant tale.

[Updated at 3:05 p.m. ET] Just as the president started speaking, Sen. Jeff Flake tweeted out a link to an editorial talking about the importance of border security - one of the key themes of the proposals by Flake and seven other senators yesterday.

[Updated at 3:02 p.m. ET] "I believe we are finally at a moment where comprehensive immigration reform is within our grasp," Obama said, but warning, "The closer we get, the more emotional this debate is going to become. Immigration has always been an issue that inflames passions."

[Updated at 2:58 p.m. ET] Now the plan. Obama says the principles are "straightforward."

The U.S. has to focus on enforcement, continuing to strengthen security on borders, and cracking down on businesses that knowingly hire illegal workers, Obama says.

Secondly, the country must deal with the 11 million immigrants here illegally. But for any plan to work, those immigrants have to realize “there is a pathway to citizenship.”

Part three is “bringing the legal immigration system into the 21st Century because it no longer reflects the reality of our time.” For instance, it shouldn’t take years for a legal immigrant’s family top qualify to join them in the U.S., he said.

This will help American be a “magnet for the best and the brightest all around the world," he said.

[Updated at 2:56 p.m. ET] Getting close to outlining his plan, Obama says there is a sense that changes should be done soon, so we can't let this get "bogged down in endless debate."

The ideas he’s proposing, he said, have been supported by Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Republicans like George W. Bush.

"You don’t get that match-up very often,” he said to chuckles from the audience.

[Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET] Cheers and applause greeted Obama's review of what he has already done, especially when he talked of the "Dreamers" - children brought to this country by their parents and who have done nothing wrong. He's speaking at Del Sol High School, which has a 54% Hispanic student body, according to U.S. News and World Report rankings.

In America: DREAMers' clout increases in immigration debate

[Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET] This isn’t just about illegal immigrants, Obama tells the room and the broader audience, but also about those who come to the U.S. to attend top universities to earn degrees in engineering and computer science, but after that, “there’s a good chance they’ll have to leave our country.”

Obama cited Intel and Instagram as examples of successful firms started by immigrants, and he said he wonders why we would tell today's immigrants graduating from American universities to go start their businesses abroad.

[Updated at 2:48 p.m. ET] Obama has the demeanor of a popular principal addressing a gathering of students. He's getting a good reception from the friendly audience.

[Updated at 2:46 p.m. ET] Obama praises the positive impact of immigrants, highlighting Google, Yahoo and other high-tech startups. He says one in four is started by immigrants.

It’s time to address “a system that’s holding us back rather than helping us grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.”

[Updated at 2:43 p.m.] "The differences are dwindling," the president says, calling immigration one of the “defining challenges of our time.”

"I am here today because the time has come for commonsense comprehensive immigration reform."

"Now is the time," he says, prompting shouts of "Si, se puede" – Spanish for "yes we can."

[Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET] The president has just taken the stage. In the audience, Obama tells us, are Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

[Posted at 1:45 p.m. ET] We still have some time before the president will speak but we're already beginning to get an idea of how the issue may be framed by the politicians.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who is one of the senators who revealed a bipartisan plan yesterday, spoke on the Senate floor about his concerns about the president's plans:

"In a few hours the president will give a speech in Nevada. And early press accounts concern me. I don’t want to turn this into a partisan thing so let me just say this – if this endeavor becomes a bidding war to see who can come up with the easiest, quickest and cheapest pathway to green card possible this thing is not going to go well folks. We now have a very common sense and reasonable set of principles and I hope what the president will say today is that he hopes that that process succeeds. But if his intentions are to trigger a bidding war to see who can come up with the easiest process, this is not a good start. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt."

It may not be related, but we've just gotten the first excerpt from the White House about what the president will say:

"We need Congress to act on a comprehensive approach that finally deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in this country right now. The good news is that – for the first time in many years – Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together. Members of both parties, in both chambers, are actively working on a solution. And yesterday, a bi-partisan group of Senators announced their principles for comprehensive immigration reform, which are very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years. At this moment, it looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that’s very encouraging."

Our colleagues with the Political Ticker break down what you can expect to hear from Obama today.

[Posted at 1:42 p.m. ET] President Obama is to speak in Las Vegas, Nevada, at 2:55 p.m. ET where he will lay the groundwork for his immigration overhaul - something he has spoken about passionately before being elected as well as during his presidency, but has never followed through on.

The president, who won a second term in part because of the support from Latino voters, is expected to lay out his vision and insist that now is the time to act when it comes to reform.

Obama's comments will come a day after a key group of bipartisan senators announced their own plan for immigration.

Republicans including Sen. John McCain, Sen. Marco Rubio, who is a rising star in the party and an expected 2016 presidential candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Jeff Flake worked on the plan with Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez and Michael Bennet.

The four "pillars" of the Senate plan are:

  • A "tough but fair" path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, but only after bolstering the nation's border security
  • Overhauling the country's legal immigration system, including attaching green cards to advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from U.S. universities
  • Establishing an employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers
  • Creating a guest-worker program for positions that Americans are either unable or unwilling to fill
  • After these steps are in place could undocumented immigrants already in the country begin the process of getting permanent residence - green cards - as a step toward citizenship

Read the full senate plan here.

soundoff (152 Responses)
  1. DC Johnny

    This president is a joke, for so many reasons it's unbelievable.

    He instructs his executive branch not to enforce laws passed by prior legislative branch members. Then he passes his own legislation illegally via executive orders. Now he "demands" the current legislative branch act, when he spent his entire first term breaking his 2008 campaign promise to reform immigration in his first term.

    This president deserves much worse than being impeached. And before you call me racist for my views, simply re-read the above paragraph and find the fault in it. Calling me a "hater" or a "racist" is not a response to the above infractions.

    January 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moose

      Very well writen

      January 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • amieholv

      truth is truth. I have said repeately I have no problem with the color of his skin, it is his policies that I have a problem with. I am not a racist, anyway he is half white also. No one ever says anything about that.

      January 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Melissa

    HELLO, Who do you think picks the oranges and other fruits and vegetables on the farms? WHo do you think washes the dishes and cooks at the major food chains? All the jobs other people do not want, Latinos take with no problems!! They are HARD WORKING people and will work long hours after others have gone home.. Be careful what you wish for, If they were to not take those jobs, Hellmart would be unaffordable!!!

    January 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • x3zy

      Really? Picking oranges? Then why do they demand to go to school and attend university? I didn't know that was required to pick oranges? If that was all they did then I honestly would have no problem. They do seem to be knocking down the wages in construction, food processing and distribution jobs. I would rather pay more at "hellmart" then have a new lower class with no chance of upward mobility be imported into my country.

      January 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat

      Melissa, I used to work in the building trades....everyone that I have ever known that worked in the trades...no longer does.
      Here,s why: Because the Greedy Property Developers drove them all out and hired Illegal Aliens! Mostly Mexicans. The Greedy multinational Companies and Pandering Poloticians have driven our wages right into the toilet! And now, their going to let a bunch more in? Many other good, hard working Americans have lost their jobs to Illegals! Hopefully you will too! Then you'll have no-one but yourself to blame for voting for all that Hope & Change!

      January 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Common Sense

    To all the self-loathing, guilt ridden liberal whites (oxymoron, I know) who think its great that white people will soon be a minority: look how well any country run by latinos or blacks functions.

    January 29, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phyllis Strickland

      Yes, they are run by evil dictators.

      January 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MC

    11 million more people to pay taxes into a "broken system"! Stop spending money we don't have!

    January 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Roger Wilcoe

    There are 20 million unemployed citizens. The only jobs they will not take are the ones that they can not perform. There would be plenty of Americans willing to fill those positions also if the free market were left to set wages at higher levels. By allowing foreign scientists and engineers to fill American jobs at $40,000 per year keeps the wages down, and makes Americans who could and would do the jobs eager instead to become Doctors and Lawyers and Stock brokers because there is no easy immigration program for those professions. America's program of targeting engineering as the easy way to citizenship means that citizens will choose other careers. This is government interference, designed by Lawyers and Politicians, artificially interfering with the laws of supply and demand. Let the market be free and people will respond rationally.

    January 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mike

    What a blithering idiot our President is. Congress is gridlocked. What does the President say? "It's their fault". Congress finally has an issue they can compromise on related to immigration. What does the President do? Try to take credit for it. What a hypocrite.

    January 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • lou50

      you can not make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

      January 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. lou50

    First round up all the illegals and deport them. they are costing us , the ones that actually pay taxes, 338 billion a year. Clog up the interstates going south with greyhound buses and put drivers back to work!

    January 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bencoates57

    As soon as I can build up my savings again, I'm taking my family to France and leaving this country behind for good. The French have a country they can call their own. France. It's only people born in the United States who have no country. Their country belongs to the world. If Congress approves this immigration reform, it is for one reason and one reason only. Votes. No one has the courage to act in accordance with common sense or character.

    January 29, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gonrodepatricia

      What I find irritating is the fact that the Politicians are assuming that passing this reform=votes! Big mistake, the legal are those that vote, I voted cause is my right/my obligation. Can they get that we legal immigrants don't care about an immigration reform, we care more about stable jobs, better education. If the Republican Party is losing latino voters is for the political ideologies, we "Latinos" are hard core democrats! Our vote has nothing to do with reforms, simply we identify with the Democratic party. Stop using that as an excuse to pass this reform!!!

      January 29, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Parkerdaddy

    "rh" is on the right track. But I don't think higher education is the answer, alone. Nor are practical trade jobs. Those are the results.
    The answer is Jobs. These allow employees to provide public Revenue. Which can only be created by employed, tax-paying citizens, regardless of where they are employed. Which can only be provided by companies that can afford to employ them.
    Obama is really putting the cart before the horse on this issue.

    January 29, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Marci

    I wish the media would actually care about this country and ask the really important questions like "Why does President Obama have to go all the way to Las Vegas everytime he wants to get support for a plan of his like the one on immigration? No wonder Congress can't get anything done, the President is never there! He is in constant campaign mode at we the taxpayers expense. I'm sick of it!

    January 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Annonymous

    "On the Statue of Liberty it says "give me your tired your hungry, your poor..." well it's Americans who are tired and hungry and poor, and I say until you take care of that, close the f*ing book! "

    January 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kri V

    President is more worried about illegal immigrants and giving them citizenship rather than legal immigrants who are highly skilled and waiting for citizenship for a decade or more...

    January 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • phearis

      I have an idea, how about you ACTUALLY read the story and know what you're talking about before making a comment .

      January 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • tti

      Since when is "keeping families together" a priority for skilled immigration? am I missing something?

      January 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sharma79

      It is all about politics.
      I am a "legal" immigrant who has been waiting since 2004 under EB3-India category. My application status since 2005 says "initial review" – what a joke! USCIS tells me there are more applicants than there are visas – well then why accept applications when the limit is reached? Why not allow an increase in the visa numbers – visa is not like currency its a damn "number" for god sakes. And ultimately the legals pay taxes, social security and contribute to the society. Legals are not "fence jumpers" – why the hell are the politicians not focusing to streamline legal system ?

      Obama is a walking and talking 'feel-good' movie that plays to people's dreams and imagination. He displays what people want to see and says what people want to hear – THAT'S IT. Nothing more. No one really cares about what "really" happens and what does he "really" get done.
      Immigration reform is one such topic – gun control was another – hell 70% of assaults are using handguns which never got banned in all this legislation talk .
      There are illegals in the country – now guess what – the image that comes to mind right away is that of a poor man, little girl/woman.
      Now, being kind is "considered a virtue" by all everywhere – he is playing exactly to that – conjuring the image – "helping the poor little helpless illegals"...sob sob sob...And a strong brave leader likes to declare things and thats whay he is doing now – asking congress to act or he will – but the real question is: What will he "really" do?

      PLUS – IT GETS VOTES! Most illegals are uneducated and they like Obama and what he gives them – when it comes for them to vote – guess who do they vote for?

      The reality is always hard and bitter.

      Most educated & capable illegals in reality were once legals. And the most contributing legals are being forced to become illegals because of the broken system.
      The country needs to fix its 'legal' immigration system. Dont have the legals wait for 15 years to get a green card.

      As for people jumping the fence and coming here – simply have every employer log into a website for at least a social security #. And dont give social security to anyone here illegally.

      And finally – as to 'fence jumpers' cutting your lawns or cleaning your home –

      a.) Build better fences
      b.) Open local offices in states for them to get a 'temporary ID card' with a period of stay of at least 3 years. After then make it yearly – have them pay a 'immigration' tax of at least $10,000 to renew every year or have their employer file a green card.
      That way you at least can start Tracking them.
      If they do neither – deport them. Period – it will be fully justified then.

      C.) If an illegal does not do anything – Catch him/her but don't push them into a jail – they were just trying to earn a living – get them an initial id card (and have them pay for it – or else deportation_) and then start tracking them

      January 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mon

      Except for the fact that in his speech he specifically said we need reform the wait period for people trying to come here legally. And also except for the fact that he clearly said part of his path for illegal immigrants applying for citizenship includes them having to go to the back of the line. Read and/or listen first.

      January 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sheyla Garcia

    I have not heard anyone speak about the people who have had a temporary protection status for 10 years. These people who work legally and pay their taxes. How will the path to citizenship work for them? It would be unfair to send these people to the back of the line when they have contributed to society by paying their share of taxes.

    January 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • CodeBlitz

      What contribution to society are you speaking of? Paying taxes is not a contribution. While they were here they took jobs from Americans and reduced the wage level for actual citizens. That is the only contribution to society they provided. So in short, they helped the big Argo companies save a few bucks and pressure wages down for the rest of us.

      Thanks, but that does not sound like a good reason to reward someone with citizenship.

      January 29, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheyla Garcia

      Okay, so if paying taxes is contributing then why are we US citizens paying them? Taxes is what contributes to education, military, social security etc. Explain how taxes aren't a contribution.

      January 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      CodeBlitz, what jobs are you speaking of? They can't get jobs (or at least not without papers). All the jobs they may be getting are illegally granted to them by the private sector. If you want to assail illegal immigrants for taking our jobs, protest Wall Street, not Washington.

      January 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brian

    Oh, well, if you "insist" on it, I suppose we'll just ignore the checks and balances in our government and get right on it. The last time I checked, Obama was elected to head the executive branch and enforce the laws that another part of government creates. Some days, his arrogance is just palpable.

    January 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • CodeBlitz

      I aggree, but lets not forget this was a bi-partisan bill. The President is the figure head for democratic legislation. True, it may be more appropriate for the majority leader to speak about this bill instead of the President, but he did promise to tackle the issue, so he deserves his moment in the spot light. We all understand his limit of power is to veto or not. That said, he is his teams mascot and so the mascot has a role to play as well.

      January 29, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      Have you ever taken civics? The federal bureaucracy is controlled by the President. Therefore he can (or his underlings) can set the policies for ICE or USBP. Congress can't. And if you really want to talk about arrogance, look no further than your Saint Mitt Romney who thankfully got put in his lowly place last year.

      January 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. rheffero

    We got the same exact speech in 1987,, as today as we will in 2030...I love the analogy some congress guy gave, we are changing the carpet but not fixing the hole in the roof. Illegal immigration, do we need a more humane process than deportation (say the Chinese or Russian approach to illegal immigration)..heck yeah,,is this the guy to solve the problem of future illegal immigration, no way, that would require working an 8 hour day. Intellectually this guy is not up to solve complex problems...

    January 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
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