President Barack Obama dealt with the issue of illegal immigration in detail in his 2012 State of the Union address, but a close scrutiny reveals that several sections in this year's speech bear striking similarity to corresponding parts in the previous year's address.
The big question now ... is this the fault of his speechwriter or is it really the case that the Obama administration has been so bogged down with the issue of illegal immigration that it has not moved past its 2010-11 stand on the issue?
This is all the more interesting because the question of illegal immigration has long been a point of controversy, among both the Democrats and the Republicans. Moreover, Obama has consistently indicated the need for reform in this area. Does this then mean the President's immigration reform policy and the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) has failed?
While the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011 includes both a mandatory employment verification system and a program that requires undocumented immigrants in the U.S. (as of June 1, 2011) to register with the government, learn English and pay fines and taxes on their way to becoming Americans, the DREAM Act tries to give children (who are undocumented immigrants) the chance to pursue citizenship through education or military service. The latter remained an unachievable dream for the Obama administration.
Let's take a look at the snippets concerning illegal immigration from the speeches Obama gave in 2011 and 2012.
Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us.
It makes no sense.
Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.
Let's also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren't yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else.
That doesn't make sense.
I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That's why my Administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That's why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.
The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let's at least agree to stop 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.
Penning Down the Similar Lines...
In 2011, Obama said he strongly believe[d] that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration.
This year too he maintained the same stand, saying I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration.
Last year, he spoke about hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens.
This year, with little change, he said hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren't yet American citizens.
Finally, and this is by no means the end of the similarities, in both speeches he spoke about the threat of deportation.
According to the Pew Report, published by the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. between 2007 and 2009 witnessed a major decline. However, between 2009 and 2010, it remained stagnant, indicating, possibly, there was no perceptible follow through on immigration reform.
2007 - 12 million
2009 - 11.1 million
2010 - 11.2 million
The actual numbers pertaining to the penetration of illegal immigrants to the U.S. in 2011 has yet to be confirmed. However, according to deportation reports published by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, nearly 396,906 illegal immigrants were deported in 2011. This compares to the 393,000 people sent back in fiscal 2010, suggesting a very insignificant (given the size of the problem) increase.
Although Obama's initiatives, designed to prevent future illegal immigration by strengthening border enforcement and creating a national system for verifying the legal immigration status of new workers, are far harsher than those of former President George W. Bush and, consequently, faced stronger criticisms, from opposing political parties, his supporters praised his policies as the most sustained and serious action securing our border ever in our nation's history.
The question is, whether those serious actions have had the desired effect.