Fixing the Immigration System for America’s 21st Century Economy

"We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea—the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here…The future is ours to win. But to get there, we cannot stand still."

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President Obama has laid out his vision for winning the future. To secure prosperity for all Americans, we must out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world, and fixing our broken immigration system plays an important part in our plan. As we work to rebuild the economy, our ability to thrive depends, in part, on restoring responsibility and accountability to our immigration system.

The President takes seriously his responsibility to enforce our immigration laws. Over the last three years, the Obama Administration has dedicated unprecedented resources to secure our borders, taken important steps to make our interior and worksite enforcement smarter and more effective, and made improvements to the legal immigration system. And in June of 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new process aimed at making the nation’s immigration policy more fair and more efficient by focusing its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk -- by removing the threat of deportation for young people who came to the U.S. as children and are low enforcement priorities. But we cannot solve the problems with our broken immigration system through enforcement alone.

Over the years, many have attempted to confront this challenge, but passions are great and disagreements run deep. The President knows that this work will not be easy, but the American people demand and deserve a solution. They deserve a 21st century immigration system that meets our economic and national security imperatives and that upholds America’s proud tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. They need Democrats, Republicans, and independents to come together to accomplish this critical task.

President Obama continues to reiterate his deep commitment to fixing the broken immigration system and outlined his vision for a 21st century immigration policy:

  • Responsibility by the federal government to secure our borders: Today, our borders are more secure than at any time in the past several decades, and the Administration continues to refine and strengthen its strategy. Enforcement resources should be focused on preventing those who would do our nation harm from entering our country.
  • Accountability for businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers: Employers who deliberately hire and exploit undocumented workers must be held accountable. At the same time, we must give employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.
  • Strengthening our economic competiveness by creating a legal immigration system that reflects our values and diverse needs: Our immigration laws should continue to reunify families and encourage individuals we train in our world-class institutions to stay and develop new technologies and industries in the United States rather than abroad. The law should stop punishing innocent young people whose parents brought them here illegally and give those young men and women a chance to stay in this country if they serve in the military or pursue higher education. A smart 21st century system should also provide farmers a legal way to hire the workers they rely on year after year, and it should improve procedures for employers who seek to hire foreign workers for jobs if U.S. workers are not available.
  • Responsibility from people who are living in the United States illegally: Those people living here illegally must also be held accountable for their actions and get on the right side of the law by registering and undergoing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, and learning English before they can get in line to become eligible for citizenship. Being a citizen of this country comes not only with rights but also with fundamental responsibilities. We can create a pathway for legal status that is fair and reflects our values.

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