Last night, in his annual State of the Union address, President Obama declared “I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration.” He went on to say, “The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.”
LIRS appreciates President Obama’s call to action on immigration reform and the DREAM Act. Everyone knows that the U.S. immigration system is broken and outdated, yet despite all of the clear signs that reform is urgently needed, we have seen little progress to achieve a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration laws. Here are some of the facts:
- An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, most of whom do not have a way to gain legal immigration status without having to return to their home countries to wait years, even decades to be able to return.
- Since 2010 Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah have passed immigration laws, creating a confusing patchwork of punitive immigration laws.
- Last year the government deported nearly 400,000 immigrants and detained more the 360,000 immigrants, separating thousands of families, undermining U.S. communities, and wasting precious taxpayer resources when more humane alternatives exist.
- Families who have played by the rules wait years or even decades to permanently reunite.
- The number of border patrol agents working along the border is at a historic high and illegal border crossings are at historic lows.
President Obama acknowledged that “election-year politics” may get in the way and called on Congress to send him legislation to prevent young people “who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, [and] defend this country” from being returned to their home countries.
LIRS is a long-time supporter of the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a pathway to legal status and eventual U.S. citizenship for undocumented youth who pursue advanced education or join the U.S. military. However, Congress’s inability to find agreement on this common sense bill should not hinder the government from using its prosecutorial discretion to ensure that we don’t focus our government resources on expelling young, talented people or other immigrants with strong family and community ties and who have stayed out of trouble.
President Obama’s remarks on immigration were much the same this year as they were in 2011, and we have seen little durable action taken by his administration. LIRS is hopeful that Obama’s promise to act, even without a stalemate Congress, holds true in the coming year.
LIRS welcomes refugees and migrants on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and provides services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States. We stand ready to work with Congress to pass immigration reform and the DREAM Act and to work with the Administration to advance fair and humane immigration policies.