Obama immigration speech, July 1, 2010

On Thursday, July 1, 2010, Barack Obama gave a speech in support of comprehensive immigration reform and his remarks are at whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-comprehensive-immigration-reform

In recent days, the issue of immigration has become once more a source of fresh contention in our country, with the passage of a controversial law in Arizona and the heated reactions we’ve seen across America. Some have rallied behind this new policy. Others have protested and launched boycotts of the state. And everywhere, people have expressed frustration with a system that seems fundamentally broken.

See system is broken for why the last bit is misleading.

Of course, the tensions around immigration are not new. On the one hand, we’ve always defined ourselves as a nation of immigrants -- a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s precepts. Indeed, it is this constant flow of immigrants that helped to make America what it is. The scientific breakthroughs of Albert Einstein, the inventions of Nikola Tesla, the great ventures of Andrew Carnegie’s U.S. Steel and Sergey Brin’s Google, Inc. -– all this was possible because of immigrants.

See nation of immigrants and note the shout-out to Obama's friends at Google corporate (see also Youtube corporate).

And then there are the countless names and the quiet acts that never made the history books but were no less consequential in building this country -- the generations who braved hardship and great risk to reach our shores in search of a better life for themselves and their families; the millions of people, ancestors to most of us, who believed that there was a place where they could be, at long last, free to work and worship and live their lives in peace.

The "most of us" part recalls Obama's "reconquista"-style comments before the election.

So this steady stream of hardworking and talented people has made America the engine of the global economy and a beacon of hope around the world. And it’s allowed us to adapt and thrive in the face of technological and societal change. To this day, America reaps incredible economic rewards because we remain a magnet for the best and brightest from across the globe. Folks travel here in the hopes of being a part of a culture of entrepreneurship and ingenuity, and by doing so they strengthen and enrich that culture. Immigration also means we have a younger workforce -– and a faster-growing economy -- than many of our competitors. And in an increasingly interconnected world, the diversity of our country is a powerful advantage in global competition.

Some immigration is good, some isn't so good; Obama isn't making a distinction. For a counter-example to his comments, see How immigration changed California for the worse (education, income inequality...) Obama goes on to praise immigration in general in two more paragraphs, then:

Now, we can’t forget that this process of immigration and eventual inclusion has often been painful. Each new wave of immigrants has generated fear and resentments towards newcomers, particularly in times of economic upheaval. Our founding was rooted in the notion that America was unique as a place of refuge and freedom for, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “oppressed humanity.” But the ink on our Constitution was barely dry when, amidst conflict, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which placed harsh restrictions of those suspected of having foreign allegiances. A century ago, immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, other European countries were routinely subjected to rank discrimination and ugly stereotypes. Chinese immigrants were held in detention and deported from Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay. They didn’t even get to come in... ...So the politics of who is and who is not allowed to enter this country, and on what terms, has always been contentious. And that remains true today. And it’s made worse by a failure of those of us in Washington to fix a broken immigration system.

He isn't even acknowledging that those who might want to cut back immigration during "times of economic upheaval" might have a point. In Obama's mind, we have to keep on admitting immigrants no matter what. Which, in fact, we have been doing: hundreds of thousands more foreign citizens got work permits than any stimulus jobs "created or saved". And, many "newcomers" do in fact have foreign allegiances. Adding in all the examples here would take too long, but start at immigration march organizers have foreign links. The "they didn't even get to come in" is like something a child would say, and it seeks to deny us the right to decide who can come into our country. While some of the exclusion of Chinese might have been based on invalid reasons, other parts were based on a policy decision regarding large numbers of low-skilled workers taking jobs from Americans. Apparently in Obama's world there were enough low-skilled jobs to go around then just as - in his world - there are now. For even more on the fallacy he's engaging in, see immigration tradition fallacy.

To begin with, our borders have been porous for decades. Obviously, the problem is greatest along our Southern border, but it’s not restricted to that part of the country. In fact, because we don’t do a very good job of tracking who comes in and out of the country as visitors, large numbers avoid immigration laws simply by overstaying their visas... The result is an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. The overwhelming majority of these men and women are simply seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Many settle in low-wage sectors of the economy; they work hard, they save, they stay out of trouble. But because they live in the shadows, they’re vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses who pay them less than the minimum wage or violate worker safety rules -– thereby putting companies who follow those rules, and Americans who rightly demand the minimum wage or overtime, at an unfair [dis]advantage. Crimes go unreported as victims and witnesses fear coming forward. And this makes it harder for the police to catch violent criminals and keep neighborhoods safe. And billions in tax revenue are lost each year because many undocumented workers are paid under the table.

The reason the borders are porous isn't because Washington hasn't fixed the system, it's because Washington is too corrupt to do its job. Obama could easily secure the border if he wanted, and likewise with his predecessors. All of the negatives Obama states are ones that those like he helped bring about.

More fundamentally, the presence of so many illegal immigrants makes a mockery of all those who are going through the process of immigrating legally. Indeed, after years of patchwork fixes and ill-conceived revisions, the legal immigration system is as broken as the borders. Backlogs and bureaucracy means the process can take years. While an applicant waits for approval, he or she is often forbidden from visiting the United States –- which means even husbands and wives may be forced to spend many years apart. High fees and the need for lawyers may exclude worthy applicants. And while we provide students from around the world visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities, our laws discourage them from using those skills to start a business or power a new industry right here in the United States. Instead of training entrepreneurs to create jobs on our shores, we train our competition.

Obama's solution to the current backlog would involve either adding yet another huge backlog, or legalizing illegal aliens without doing thorough background checks. The second part of the above would involve braindraining the world.

In sum, the system is broken. And everybody knows it. Unfortunately, reform has been held hostage to political posturing and special-interest wrangling -– and to the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics.

By "everybody" he's probably not thinking beyond the Beltway establishment. As stated above, the problem isn't with the system, it's with political corruption: politicians like Obama are simply too corrupt to enforce our laws.

Into this breach, states like Arizona have decided to take matters into their own hands. Given the levels of frustration across the country, this is understandable. But it is also ill conceived. And it’s not just that the law Arizona passed is divisive -– although it has fanned the flames of an already contentious debate. Laws like Arizona’s put huge pressures on local law enforcement to enforce rules that ultimately are unenforceable. It puts pressure on already hard-strapped state and local budgets. It makes it difficult for people here illegally to report crimes -– driving a wedge between communities and law enforcement, making our streets more dangerous and the jobs of our police officers more difficult... And you don’t have to take my word for this. You can speak to the police chiefs and others from law enforcement here today who will tell you the same thing... These laws also have the potential of violating the rights of innocent American citizens and legal residents, making them subject to possible stops or questioning because of what they look like or how they sound. And as other states and localities go their own ways, we face the prospect that different rules for immigration will apply in different parts of the country -– a patchwork of local immigration rules where we all know one clear national standard is needed.

1. Apparently Obama thinks determining legal status is "unenforceable". He should tell that to the Border Patrol and other agencies that have been successfully doing that for decades.

2. While the law might be used against those reporting crimes, the chances of that are slim; Obama isn't waiting to find out.

3. See Police chiefs who opposed Arizona immigration law in progressive PERF group; were any he referred to in that same group? How much of their opinions are based on politics?

4. All laws have "the potential of violating the rights of innocent American citizens and legal residents". Again, Obama isn't waiting to find out.

5. The Arizona law has tried to hew to federal law. To a good extent, the only "patchwork" that would exist would result from localities who decided to undercut federal law, such as sanctuary cities.

The above is only half of his speech; the rest will be covered later today.

For now, note that he's engaging in the deportations false choice and at the end of his speech he even engages in what we call the Lazarus fallacy: reading part of Emma Lazarus' poem that was tacked on to the Statue of Liberty years after it was built.

In the meantime, see , Obama immigration, Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security, and the list of topics we cover.

And, if you don't want amnesty, please do see Will teaparty and rightwing bloggers stumble us into amnesty?