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Obama and Immigration

Obama Immigration

Ten years ago, few people knew who Barack Obama was. It was the 2004 Democratic National Convention that brought national attention and fame to the young and vibrant Illinois senator. His speech was the highlight of the convention, and the story of his mixed heritage was the highlight of his speech.

Obama opened his speech by explaining that his father was from a small village in Kenya. He said that his father was determined to achieve something greater for himself and his country, so he left to the United States as a foreign-student on a scholarship. His father then met his mother, who was from Kansas.

This anecdote made him relatable to the millions of Americans who share a similar background. People understood his idealism about what America is and should be: a land of opportunities. He mentioned that American optimism is what will push the country ahead and that it is optimism that gives immigrants the strength to leave their native homes and come to the U.S. for a better life.

Obama's First Term Immigration Timeline

From the onslaught of his presidential campaign, Obama seemed deeply interested in immigration reform. In May 2008, while campaigning, he made a promise to a Spanish-language news anchor saying:

"What I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year [of the presidency] an immigration bill that I strongly support."

This did not happen, but significant strides were made since Obama took office. His record on immigration as President of the United States can be reviewed through the following series of events that happened during his first term:

January 2009

Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

March 2009

The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, which was first introduced in 2001, is reintroduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate. The DREAM Acts seeks to give conditional citizenship to a specific group of young undocumented immigrants. Obama supports it.

Sept 2009

Obama calls for Health Care reform. He says his plan will not cover illegal immigrants.

Jan 2010

Obama does his first state of the union address. In his address, he says:

" Administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That's why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office."

He also says:

" expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away."

April 2010

Obama criticizes Arizona's new SB-1070 law that grants law-enforcement officers the power to check the legal status of people who are stopped during the investigation of possible crimes. Obama says there needs to be a federal overhaul of immigration laws so that states don't pass the same kind of laws and make the mistake of following the "irresponsibility of others."

November 2010

Republicans take control of the House of Representatives.

December 2010

The House of Representatives passes the DREAM act, but the Senate does not.

May 2011

DREAM Act is reintroduced in the Senate. President Obama supports it. In a speech on comprehensive immigration reform, Obama says:

The most significant step we can take now to secure the borders is to fix the system as a whole so that fewer people have incentive to enter illegally in search of work in the first place.

June 2012

Obama announces an executive order to stop the deportation of young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children. The requirements include that a person must be younger than 31 years old, have entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and have a clean criminal record. During his announcement, he says:

"We have always drawn strength from being a nation of immigrants, as well as a nation of laws. And that's going to continue."

August 2012

Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy goes into effect.

September 2012

Obama accepts presidential nomination at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. In his acceptance speech, he says to his fellow democrats and supporters:

"You're the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she's ever called home."

Obama's Immigration Reform

Along with other policies on domestic issues, Obama's first term will be remembered for his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, DACA. The program was set up to allow eligible undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States without the threat of deportation for a period of two years by labeling them low enforcement priorities. This was not the DREAM Act so many undocumented immigrants had hoped for since the possibility of citizenship was not made part of DACA, but it was a step forward that got the U.S. closer to immigration reform. It is important to note that there had not been a similar policy put in place since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted 3 million undocumented workers the opportunity to work legally.

Overall, Obama did follow through with what he intended to do in his first term, which was to secure the borders and make a distinction between undocumented immigrants who are threats to national security and young people raised in America who should not be punished for entering the country illegally since it was not their decision to do so.

Information Sources:

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