President Barack Obama's push for comprehensive changes to the nation's immigration laws that would allow more than 11 million people in the country illegally to remain in the country was met with skepticism by Arizona's governor, who said it would be a shame if it was a ploy to get votes in the 2012 presidential election.
Obama outlined his proposal to change immigration laws at a Texas border city on Tuesday, calling on people to press their representatives to adopt his positions on border controls, business accountability, immigrants in the country illegally, and foreign students.
Obama's message in El Paso on changing U.S. immigration laws was the same as it has been throughout his administration. The proposals endorsed by Democrats have not been able to pass in the House and Senate in the previous two years.
His plan strengthens border protection, allows people in the country illegally to remain after acknowledging they broke the law, holds businesses accountable and makes it easier for foreign students to remain in the country and start businesses.
We need to provide our farms a legal way to hire workers that they rely on, and a path for those workers to earn legal status, Obama said.
One of the policies he favors - the DREAM Act - would allow children of immigrants in the country illegally to remain in the country, in part, through participating in military service or pursuing a college degree.
I'm going to do my part to lead a constructive and civil debate on these issues, Obama said. But this change ultimately has to be driven by you, the American people.
He urged them to push for comprehensive reform, and areas where we can find common ground among Democrats and Republicans such as the DREAM ACT and visa reform.
So I'm asking you to add your voices to this debate, he said. He said people could sign up to help at www.WhiteHouse.gov.
Meanwhile Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says she is skeptical of the President's focus on immigration.
It would be a shame if this effort is more about locking down votes in 2012 than securing our nation's borders today, she said.
If the President felt confident in declaring the border secure, he should have come to tell the people of Arizona face-to-face, she said.
In Tuesday's speech, Obama said the U.S. in 2012 has twice as many border patrol agents - 20,000 - than in 2004.
I had a chance to meet some of these outstanding agents, and actually saw some of them on horseback who looked pretty tough, he said.
Obama also said a border fence is now basically complete.
He also said the U.S. had tripled the number of intelligence analysts working at the border, deployed unmanned patrol vehicles, and made a partnership with Mexico to fight the transnational criminal organizations that have affected both of our countries.
Obama also said that for the first time we're screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments to seize guns and money going south even as we go after drugs that are coming north.
We've gone above and beyond what ws requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement, he said.
But even though we've answered these concerns, I've got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time.
He also joked about the amount of border enforcement needed.
You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they're going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol. Or they'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That's politics, he said.
He continued to cite another series of statistics.
Over the past two and a half years, we've seized 31 percent more drugs, 75 percent more currency, 64 percent more weapons than ever before. (Applause.) And even as we have stepped up patrols, apprehensions along the border have been cut by nearly 40 percent from two years ago. That means far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally.
Brewer said that her state remains America's gateway for illegal immigration, and we continue to bear the brunt of the federal government's failure on the issue.
Everyone can agree our immigration system is broken. Any reasonable fix will require the good-faith efforts of state leaders, members of Congress, local officials, the business community and the White House. But the people of America won't be fooled again. They know that any talk of a path to citizenship is simply amnesty by another name. And they're smart enough to recognize a political ploy when they see it, she said.
In Friday's speech, Obama recalled the 2008 presidential campaign in pushing for the changes.
So whenever you hear people saying that our problems now are too big to solve, or we can't bring about the change that we were talking about, or boy, politics is so nasty -- whenever cynicism rears its ugly head -- I want you to think about all the progress we've made already. I want you to think how unlikely it was the first time around. I want you to think about all the unfinished business that lies ahead. And I want to -- I want you to remember and I want you to remind everybody else those three simple words that summed up our last campaign and that will sum up our spirit as a people: Yes, we can, Obama said.
Brewer said Obama's talk was more of the same.
I'm afraid today's announcement is simply more of the 'promise something, do nothing, blame someone' political spin we've become accustomed to hearing from Washington. That would be a shame, she added.