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Obama calls for wide-range immigration reform in El Paso

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.elpasotimes.com/ci_18030919 Obama calls for wide-range immigration reform in El Paso By Milan Simonich / Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Posted:
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10, 2011

      Obama calls for wide-range immigration reform in El Paso
      By Milan Simonich / Texas-New Mexico Newspapers
      Posted: 05/10/2011 05:36:01 PM MDT

      America must open its doors to a new wave of immigrants because it is smart business and humane public policy, President Obama said Tuesday in El Paso.

      Obama, speaking to about 2,000 people at Chamizal National Memorial near the Mexican border, called for wide-ranging immigration reform. The president's plan would seek out the best and the brightest immigrants, but also consider citizenship for the hungry and hurting.

      Obama spoke sympathetically of the 11 million people who are in the United States illegally. He said under his plan they would be fined and would have to learn English, but they would not be disqualified from becoming U.S. citizens.

      "Some crossed the border illegally. Others avoid immigration laws by overstaying their visas. Regardless of how they came, the overwhelming majority of these folks are just trying to earn a living and provide for their families," Obama said to applause.

      The president also put forth a challenge to Republicans in Congress, saying their delays on discussing immigration policy were short-sighted. He spoke of Intel, Google, Yahoo and eBay as four high-dollar examples of why immigration reform is critical.

      "All those great American companies, all the jobs they've created ... every one of those was founded by, guess who - an immigrant," Obama said.

      "So we don't want the next Intel or the next Google to be created in China or India. We want those companies and jobs to take root here."

      Mostly, though, Obama talked about the United States being a country that encourages American dreams, even for those born elsewhere or into splintered families.

      The president put a face on the controversial, divisive topic - a man named José Hernández, who did not learn to speak English until he was 12 years old.

      The son of itinerant farm workers, Hernández was born in California. Two of his siblings were born in Mexico, creating a mixed family of legal and illegal U.S. residents.

      But, the president said, every American now is proud to claim José Hernández, who excelled in mathematics and became a NASA astronaut.

      "... He found himself more than 100 miles above the surface of the earth, staring out the window of the Shuttle Discovery, remembering the boy in the California fields with a crazy dream and an unshakable belief that everything was possible in America," Obama said. "That is what we are fighting for."

      Hernández, now 48, sat quietly near the president as the crowd gave him a resounding ovation.

      Republicans quickly criticized the president for pressing for immigration, saying the 2,000-mile southern border was porous and unsafe.

      Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Obama had somehow overlooked a Government Accountability Office Report saying only 44 percent of the is secure. He said Obama had succeeded only in staging a political event in El Paso while members of Congress worked in Washington.

      Texas Gov. Rick Perry declined to meet Obama when he deplaned in El Paso.

      "There is always a lot of talk about these issues but, until we see real change, it is what it is. It's just talk," said Perry's spokeswoman, Lucy Nashed.

      Coatless in the El Paso sun, Obama did not shy from a confrontation with Republicans. He said no amount of evidence would convince them that the border is secure, the time right for immigration reform.

      "El Paso and other cities and towns along this border are consistently among the safest in the nation," Obama said.

      A fence has been built and the size of the border patrol has doubled to 20,700 officers in seven years, but Republicans will never be satisfied, Obama said.

      "Maybe they'll say we need a moat. Or alligators in the moat," Obama said.

      What America needs is a dialogue on immigration, and a solution before the next election, Obama said. Otherwise, the challenge of what to do about immigration will drag on to the detriment of the country, he said.

      U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said afterward he hoped for what did not seem possible - bipartisan work on immigration policy.

      "In 2007, I supported the efforts of former President George W. Bush to overhaul the immigration system, and I applaud President Obama for again bringing this issue to the forefront," Udall said.

      Santa Fe Bureau Chief Milan Simonich can be reached at msimonich@... or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com.
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