On Thursday, after weeks of increased pressure from immigrant rights advocates President Obama addressed a crowd at American University on the need to fix our broken immigration system. The speech outlined his commitment to a comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrant families currently in the U.S.
The president showed a keen understanding of the ugly history of the immigration debate in America. Today’s immigration debate is no different than any time in the past. The dialogue has quickly shifted to blame and political punditry, and Obama did well early on in making sweeping references to American values of acceptance, opportunity, and diversity. However he quickly moved to the typical ‘some on the left’ and ‘some on the right’s rhetoric that we come to expect in all Obama speeches.
In his attempt to find middle ground, as well intentioned as it may be, he is giving power to the opposition by playing equals. This happens because it misrepresents the actual number of Americans who are against reform, and lends moral weight of the opposition’s arguments. We have allowed the right to completely hijack the issue of immigration. The president has the platform to redefine the debate on his terms. He needs to clearly define the issue based on our shared values, get specific about the solution and champion those specifics. Without this firm leadership it leaves space for the entire process to be stalled.
The speech was a welcomed signal of continued support from the President, but we have talked enough about this issue what we really need is action. The President has taken the first step. Now we need members of Congress to step up and pass a solution to “a broken and dangerous system that offends our most basic American values.”
To read the transcript of the speech: White House