Obama: "I’m very confident we can get immigration reform done.”
In his first press conference since the election Obama came with his crisp, hard hitting rhetoric. No tax cuts for the rich, global warming is real, and the big one for the Latino and Asian community, immigration.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday he plans to get the ball rolling on passing an immigration reform that includes a pathway to legalization during his second term.
“We have to seize the moment,” Obama told reporters during his first White House news conference since his re-election last week. “My expectation is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration.”
He said the bill should give undocumented immigrants an “avenue whereby they can resolve their legal status here in the country.” To qualify, immigrants will need to have a clean criminal record, pay back taxes, learn English and potentially pay a fine.
Obama also said the bill should include “a continuation of the strong border security measures” that his administration already has in place. It should also contain “serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring undocumented workers and are taking advantage of them.”
Referring to undocumented youth, Obama said they should be given “every opportunity to earn their citizenship.”
“Young people who were brought here through no fault of their own, who have gone to school here, pledged allegiance to our flag, want to serve in our military, want to go to school and contribute to society—they shouldn’t be under the cloud of deportation,” he said.
As for agricultural workers, the president said they should be allowed to stay and work in the United States. The same goes for high-skilled foreign workers who have PhDs in careers such as physics and computers science.
“We shouldn’t make it harder for them to stay here,” he said of skilled workers. “We should try to encourage them to contribute to this society.”
Obama supports immigration reform
Obama also noted that immigration reform once drew bipartisan support from Republicans, including former president George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. But in recent years, Republicans have opposed passing it, saying the border must first be secured.
However, Obama said there are “positive” signs that Republicans are reconsidering their opposition toward passing an immigration reform. Last week, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. McCain called for the passage of an immigration reform.
Much of that change of heart, Obama said, is due to the political power Latinos demonstrated last week when they came out to vote in record numbers.
“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,” the president said of Latino voters.