November 14, 2012
The landslide re-election of President Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States is a clear affirmation that the American Dream continues to be alive and strong. It is a recognition that Americans continue to believe that those who work hard and contribute to the American society should have the opportunity and ability to live with dignity, security, and respect.
President Obama acknowledged this in his victory speech, stating “America,…I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”
It is this notion that the American Dream should be accessible to all that now leads the President in his resolve to fix the broken immigration laws of the US. With the dismal support of immigrant communities toward Republican immigration policies, Republicans seem to have reassessed their policies and have expressed a desire to join with the President and Democrats in fixing the immigration system. Just three days after the election, Republican House Speaker John Boehner stated that he believed it was time to address the US immigration policies.
More promising is that Senators from both political parties are now promoting enactment of legislation that will provide a pathway for those residing in the US without authorization to become lawful permanent residents and ultimately US citizens. It may be because 65% of Americans now support providing the undocumented population a path toward legalization.
In an interview on “Face the Nation” on November 11, 2012, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham expressed support for a pathway to legalization once the nation’s borders are secure. Once this has been accomplished, Sen. Graham states that he supports passage of a law that would allow the undocumented population to “come out of the shadows, get biometrically identified, start paying taxes, pay a fine for the law they broke…. They can’t stay unless they learn our language, and they have to get in the back of line before they become citizens.”
The apparent desire to finally address the broken US immigration laws through compassionate and respectable legislation that recognizes the contributions of the undocumented population is certainly welcome news. Discussions between the two political parties about substantial immigration reform had ceased two years ago. Recognizing this, Pres. Obama has spent much of the past couple years attempting to address the plight of the undocumented population through changes in immigration policies that do not require Congress to pass new laws.
Pres. Obama’s administration revised its enforcement policies so that their limited resources could more effectively be used to remove high-risk individuals, such as those with criminal convictions or prior deportation orders. As well, Pres. Obama initiated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows innocent individuals brought to the US as children to no longer fear removal to a country they often have no connection to, as well the ability to progress in their education and careers.
The re-election of Pres. Obama at least secures that these humanitarian immigration policies will continue and that individuals should not live in fear that their hard work will be for nothing. Pres. Obama reiterated his beliefs during his victory speech in stating that “We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag.” While the policies established by Pres. Obama have helped ease matters for many, pursuit of a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration laws is essential.
Favorable immigration reform appears to be on the horizon. However, as with anything, it will take time and hard work to achieve what just a short while ago seemed impossible to achieve. The time is now, however, for individuals to take advantage of the policies that the President has already put into place, such as young individuals pursuing their dreams by applying for DACA. Individuals must continue to do all that they can under the current immigration system. As well, individuals must continue to advocate for changes to the immigration system that acknowledges the contributions that hard working individuals in this country have made to ensure that they truly are enacted and that the voice of the American people is truly heard.