Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, had the following reaction to President Obama’s immigration comments:
President Obama made it clear that comprehensive immigration reform is a top priority for early 2013. As he predicted before the election, Latino voters punished the GOP and its nominee Mitt Romney for lurching to the right on immigration. And as we see now, numerous Republicans – from John Boehner to Sean Hannity to John McCain to Rand Paul – are gearing up to work with Democrats to put 11 million undocumented immigrants – including DREAMers and their parents – on the road to citizenship. This is a dramatic and welcome set of developments. It now appears that 2013 will be the year that Congress passes real immigration reform.
Here’s the full transcript of the immigration question and response, courtesy of the New York Times:
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. On immigration reform, the criticism in the past has been that you did not put forth legislation with specific ideas and send it up to the Hill. This time around, you have said again that this will be one of the top priorities for a second term. Will you then send legislation to the Hill. And exactly what do you envision is broad immigration reform? Does that include a legalization program? And also, what lessons, if any, did Democrats learn from this last election and the Latino vote?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think what was incredibly encouraging was to see a significant increase in Latino turnout. This is the fastest-growing group in the country. And you know, historically what you’ve seen is Latino vote — vote at lower rates than the broader population. And that’s beginning to change. You’re starting to see a sense of empowerment and civic participation that I think is going to be powerful and good for the country.
And it is why I am very confident that we can get immigration reform done. You know, I — before the election, I had given a couple of interviews where I had predicted that the Latino vote was going to be strong and that that would cause some reflection on the part of Republicans about their position on immigration reform. I think we’re starting to see that already. I think that’s a positive sign.
This has not historically been a partisan issue. We’ve had President Bush, John McCain and others who have supported comprehensive immigration reform in the past. So we need to seize the moment.
And my expectation is is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration. And in fact, some conversations, I think, are already beginning to take place among senators and congressmen and my staff about what would this look like.
And when I say comprehensive immigration reform and — is very similar to the outlines of previous efforts at comprehensive immigration reform; I think it should include a continuation of the strong border security measures that we’ve taken, because we have to secure our borders. I think it should contain serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring undocumented workers and taking advantage of them. And I do think that there should be a pathway for legal status for those who are living in this country, are not engaged in criminal activity, are here simply to work. It’s important for them to pay back taxes, it’s important for them to learn English, it’s important for them to potentially pay a fine, but to give them the avenue whereby they can resolve their legal status here in this country, I think is very important.
Obviously, making sure that we put into law what — the first step that we’ve taken administratively dealing with the DREAM Act kids is very important as well. One thing that I’m — I’m very clear about is that young people who are brought here through no fault of their own, who have gone to school here, pledged allegiance to our flag, who want to serve in our military, who want to go to school and contribute to our society, that they shouldn’t be under the cloud of deportation, that we should give them every opportunity to earn their citizenship.
And so, you know, there are other components to it, obviously. The business community continues to be concerned about getting enough high-skill workers. And I am a believer that if you’ve got a Ph.D. in physics or computer science, who wants to stay here and start a business here, we shouldn’t make it harder for him to stay here. We should try to encourage him to contribute to this society.
I think that the agricultural sector obviously has very specific concerns about making sure that they’ve got a workforce that helps deliver food to our tables.
So there are going to be a bunch of components to it, but I think whatever process we have needs to make sure border security is strong, needs to deal with employers effectively, needs to provide a pathway for the undocumented here, needs to deal with the Dream Act kids. And I think that’s something that we can get done.