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President Obama Renews Push For Immigration Reform

President Obama Renews Push For Immigration Reform
President Obama Renews Push For Immigration Reform
Guests: Lilia Velasquez, Immigration Attorney Michael Rosen, Republican Activist in San Diego

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Our top story on Midday Edition, president Barack Obama mentioned the need for immigration reform in his State of the Union address, emphasizing the economic benefit that reform would bring. [ [ AUDIO FILE PLAYING ] ] OBAMA: Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams ñ to study, invent, and contribute to our culture ñ to make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let's get immigration reform done this year. Let's get it done. It's time. [ [ END AUDIO FILE ] ] MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The president has urged the passage of immigration reform and most of the state of the union say to the Union addresses, but so far commerce is not acted. The Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill last year it installed in the house. Republicans begin their annual true retreat this week and immigration reform legislation is expected to a major focus of the meeting. Meanwhile America's 11 million estimated immigrants remain here. Turning me here to discuss this are my guess is that Lilia Velasquez and Michael Rosen. Let me ask you both about this question, the reaction to President Obama's comments and immigration reform in the state of the Union address last night? LILIA VELASQUEZ: I feel cautiously optimistic and there is criticism that he did not say very much she said very little. Immigration applicants indicate that this was the strategy that President Obama was going to use, during the address. Especially because the house has already signaled that they do intend to carry shortly to reveal immigration version whether this will be reform is comprehensive we do not know, they've indicated in the past that they want to use a peaceful approach. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Michael your reaction to what the president said last night about immigration reform. MICHAEL ROSEN: At that it was telling that the president used only the boilerplate language as you mentioned had been used in virtually every state of the Union address that as the key has been given to this president has many has had many years to get something done and immigration reform and he hasn't. Even when he had complete control of the executive and legislative branches and in fact the Republicans have been leading the charge on immigration reform both incompetence of form of the Senate, and as we're going to see over the coming month, the house where more of a step by step approach is must be of introduced. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to get back to that and what the GOP might be coming up with, but in the last State of the Union address was an Obama told the nation that the now is the time for immigration reform. There was a lot of optimism surrounding the issue, would you say the optimism has faded? LILIA VELASQUEZ: I would say it has, they have lost faith and Mexicans and Latinos have this saying expression hope ever dies, and some people are still hanging on thinking it's going to happen, when the pipe partisan proposal came about, all of us that even immigrations lawyers said this is a done deal and that it would happen. That enthusiasm and that momentum has been lost, and now we feel that is is clearly going to happen this year or are we just resigning ourselves living here for another twenty years? MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You recognize the eight in the Senate, they came up with the comprehensive immigration reform bill which included tighter border security and a pathway to citizenship for people here illegally, that passed in the Senate. What happened to the GOP dominated house? MICHAEL ROSEN: It passed the Senate because you had strong leadership by some Republican senators who believe out on a limb, you're dealing with sedatives and several of them with large Latino populations of the state including Senator McCain and Senator Flake, and their approach I think has not met with approval of the house because there is deep skepticism in the house torrent any sort of minutes of massive comprehensive plan, like a glove that skepticism derives from the last conference reform and the tent that we saw which was healthcare and as any of your listeners will now and have been aware of, when you try to make massive overwhelming change to future system all at once, there can be lots of problems that will come up and that is what is driving a lot of resistance of the house. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The GOP and the house may come with a piecemeal approach, can we be expecting to see that? Instead of a big package bill that has a lot of different aspects to it and order security and pathway to citizenship, this would break that up into certain bills that would provide for border security order some sort of legalization for people here illegally? MICHAEL ROSEN: That is from everything I've read and what I understand and we will know a lot more over the next coming weeks Looks at the components of the step-by-step approach will be first border security and workplace enforcement to make sure that a vast majority of that importers are secure enough for people going into the country without permission but was especially from drugs and crime and terrorism. We are respecting our climate laws of the workplace to make sure that employers crackdown on employers and plays such an ability of the company's Is another big piece and increasing the availability of leases in particular for graduate students and in particular among graduate students for those in the so-called STEM field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, we do have a strong need for highly skilled workers. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes that piece there is a lot of opposition to the idea of that piecemeal approach last year, our immigration advocates looking this more flavor leave now? LILIA VELASQUEZ: Again we do not know exactly what version the house is going to come up with, but the problem with the proposal by the bipartisan group of eight, it had triggers, you need to enforce Lisa hundred percent of the Southwest order between the US and Mexico and 90% of the people deported, that the concern of this pointless to look at this and how to evaluate whether it does have been met before we get into the path to citizenship and that can be concerned whether first border security and national security and to provide a path to citizenship for 11 million We also heard something different path to legalization. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's talk more about that, it's no secret that within the worth of Republican Party, the idea of immigration reform is a big problem for a lot of Republican politicians in Congress because if they supported, and may space challenges at home, what kind of conflicts are actually going on? How can something like this be sold to those politicians were concerned about those jobs if they say okay on the original form? MICHAEL ROSEN: was I would take issue with some of the premise can't believe that there is strong support among Republicans and conservatives Mainstream tea party or what everyone called him for immigration reform. And it depends on what you mean by immigration reform, and particular their strong support both nationally and among Republicans for border security, their strong support for increasing access to skilled workers to come into this country and increase in or and augment our longitude of advantage and technology fields, there is also strong support among Republicans and Americans as a whole for bringing in some of these people out of the shadows and into a way that they can be integrated back into our society, whether that is legalization or citizenship away rest come before Congress a lot of room for debate about all of that and I think those principles are common. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And John Boehner may be held against some census in this retreat that Republicans are on this year this week, it is expected that this plan was agreed on he will put it forth before late spring because that is the ending of the charges to come forward and Republican primaries, and so there is something to this idea that some Republican legislators and some congressmen are concerned of an attack from the right if they support any kind of immigration record reform that is such as bone security would you agree with that? MICHAEL ROSEN: You look at some of the voices that are getting behind immigration reform or really driving the train in Congress, looking at Republicans like Jeff Flake and Marco Rubio and John McCain, is the folks who are willing to take will see that the house as well, we'll see congressmen coming forward even in conservative districts and in particular in districts with large Latino populations where there is a strong desire to do something about this, and of course there are political risks and challenges to everything that you do, but this is some other policy directing to do, we just have to make sure that it gets done right. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what about the difference between a push for legalization for people who are here legally instead of a pathway to citizenship, and the pathway to citizenship was something that was really touted last year, would immigration activists say okay legalization is better than nothing? LILIA VELASQUEZ: I'm afraid that at this point people are so desperate that they be agreed to this wasn't the old purple benefit, what with this benefit be? Is it going to be a temporary green card under the temporary bipartisan proposal but aesthetic, we had a situation where people were very concerned that they would be in limbo for many many years. Because it is stated that you'll get this temporary status for ten years and three years later you can apply for citizenship, collagen people have to wait to secretly my status, and think? If they can live here work. They cannot travel or plan future because they cannot not know whether or not they will get a green card, and if so when? This is very much akin to what we have today with what is called temporary protected status for certain nationals of countries that have turmoil or some conflict, Salvadorans get TPS, eighteen months of time. They've been getting TPS for more than ten years, and they don't see the light at the end of time that the end of tunnel, just to have legalization may be a consolation prize for some people, but in the long run it with one for incorporation of those immigrants into the mainstream. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: To jump on the word that you use of limbo, what does this stall? On immigration reform due to people who have taken advantage of the deferred action for childhood arrivals or the program, they've come forward and identify themselves and they are now able to drive in California, go to school and pay for loans, but when people are trying to plan out their lives, what is happening? LILIA VELASQUEZ: That is precisely the problem, in fact we're getting close to having to extend work permits, that question is with the fee Republican is elected as president, what is going to have two more than half a million students who are really taking vantage of this very good program and are furthering their education and getting good jobs, and to lose that, they may have for four years and then what happens after that? Since the immigration service has all of their personal information, there is fear of deportation not just for them but maybe their family members, so this is good that it's not on a permanent basis. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I am wondering, if indeed and I suppose he would be extremely pleased that there's a lot of Republican elected in 2016 if no immigration reform package or series of laws were in place by then, do you think there is a chance that a Republican president would extend this program? MICHAEL ROSEN: Let us hope that you're right in 2016 we do have a Republican sitting in the White House, and it's hard to say. If these are exactly as they were right now, I think it would be difficult for Republican to undo what President Obama did, and the criticism from Republicans about this program or how more about how President Obama nominated by executive action rather than seeking the approval of Congress kind of the substance of the program not a great of a source of controversy as the fact that the president unilaterally decided which laws he will and will not enforce, I think that is a big big problem, but presumably by the time the new Republican cousin to the offices 2016, some of this will be formalized and codified and really become part of the mainstream that Americans are comfortable with it in one form or another. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: My last question, speaking of big problems the GOP has it admitted that has a big problem in attracting Latino voters and minorities, how important would you say that rubble can report was support for immigration reform is achieving the goal of broadening the Republican party? MICHAEL ROSEN: Republicans have been trying for years to attract many Latino for us as possible and we as a party see our party as a natural home for Latinos all across the country and first generation second generation Whatever it is we're talking the hard-working folks at family people who simply want a fair chance to get ahead in America, that is what the Republican of parties about is working in every aspect to try to encourage that and build the bridges, and reform in particular think that is an important component, to get his import difficult to continue in attracting grove our base of Latino voters must be signaled that we're serious about fixing a problem that we have had in a country with immigration, with signal that we value Latinos and Latino immigration to this country, there's no reason that we should continue to do that. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you think that motivation will push the GOP to make the decisions that they need to make to get that reform passed in Congress? LILIA VELASQUEZ: I hope so because they do need to appeal to Latino voters in certain demographics in the United States, but I think that's the very short message about person Obama yesterday is indicative of how we want immigration to be redefined, the immigration debate, economic prosperity of the US goes hand-in-hand with it it legalization of immigrants and that is how we want to pitch the need for immigration reform. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have to end it there, would like to thank my guests Lilia Velasquez and Michael Rosen. Thank you very much.

In his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama urged Congress to get immigration reform done this year.

Obama's full comments on immigration:

"Finally, if we're serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement - and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. And I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams — to study, invent, contribute to our culture - they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let's get immigration reform done this year. Let's get it done. It's time."

The immigration debate seems to be gaining momentum.


Bipartisan legislation has passed the Senate last year that enhances border security and provides a path to citizenship for about 11 immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

The House prefers a piecemeal approach. House Republicans are meeting this week and are expected to outline their principles for an immigration overhaul.

Among the proposals under consideration by House Republican leaders is one that would give legal status to immigrants in the U.S. illegally but not citizenship.

The White House has said Obama wants the legislation to lead to citizenship. But Obama did not make that demand Tuesday night.

With many Republicans staunchly opposed to Obama's plan for creating a pathway to citizenship, some remain skeptical.


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who's a major player on immigration policy says there's no chance now of passing a broad overhaul.

Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address