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Barack Obama's Courageous Speech on Immigration Reform

"This is not who we are as a country."


Barack Obama's Courageous Speech on Immigration Reform

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) delivered these courageous, wise words on June 6, 2007 on the U.S. Senate floor when introducing a controversial amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.

His remarks, calling for justice and democratic values in immigration reform legislation, sparked a well-publicized verbal scuffle between Sen. Obama and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC).

(Also see Barack Obama in 2008 Info Center Hub.)

Obama Initiative Would Revisit Radical Changes to Immigration System

"I come to the floor tonight to speak about the new ‘points’ system created in this bill – a proposal that will radically change the way that we judge who is worthy of lawful entry into American society.

Serious Concerns about Radical Social Engineering

"For decades, American citizens and legal permanent residents have been able to sponsor their family members for entry into our country. For decades, American businesses have been able to sponsor valued employees.

"The bill before us changes a policy that, while imperfect, has worked well and will replace it with a new, untested, unexamined system to provide visas to immigrants who look good on paper, but who may not have any familial or economic ties to our country.

"I have serious concerns about this new experiment in social engineering, not only because of the lack of evidence that it will work, but because the bill says that the new points system cannot be changed for fourteen years.

For that reason, I come to the floor today, joined by Senators Menendez and Feingold, to offer amendment 1202 to sunset the points system after five years. I am pleased that immigration experts, religious organizations, and immigrant advocacy organizations have all endorsed our amendment.

Amendment Endorsed by Immigration Experts, Religious Groups

"These groups have endorsed my amendment because the points system in this bill constitutes a radical shift in immigration policy, premised on the view that there is something wrong with family and employer sponsored immigration. If this program were merely supplementing the current system rather then significantly replacing it, it would not have caused as much concern.

"Religious organizations and immigrant advocacy groups also have endorsed my amendment because the decisions about what characteristics are deserving of points -- and how points are allocated for those characteristics -- were made without a single hearing or public examination.

Bush Bill Moves Away from Valuing Families

"And they support the amendment because the new points system shifts us too far away from the value we place on family ties and moves us toward a class-based immigration system where some people are welcome only as guestworkers, but never as full participants in our democracy.

Indeed, the practical effect of the points system is to make it more difficult for Americans and legal permanent residents with family living in Latin America to bring them here.

"Our current immigration system delivers the lion’s share of green cards – about 63% -- to family members of Americans and legal permanent residents, while roughly 16% of visas are allocated to employment-based categories.

The bill before us would reduce visas allocated to the family system in order to dramatically increase the proportion of visas distributed based on economic “points.” Once implemented, these new economic points visas would then account for about 40% of all visas, while family visas would account for less than half of all visas, with the remainder going for humanitarian purposes.

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