Washington (CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama’s commitment to providing legal status for illegal aliens is reflected in the time he has spent focusing on the country’s immigration laws in recent weeks, the White House said on Monday, one day before the president is set to deliver a national address on immigration in El Paso, Texas.
El Paso is across the border from Juarez, Mexico, a city where 3,111 civilians were murdered last year--more than in all of Afghanistan.
In recent weeks, Obama has met with current and former elected officials, business leaders and Hollywood celebrities – all of whom agree with his position on the matter – to promote comprehensive immigration reform.
Proponents call the proposal a “pathway to citizenship” for the roughly 12 million illegal aliens in the country, but critics call it “amnesty.”
“It will reflect his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “We weren’t able to achieve it in the first part of the president’s term but it remains a priority of the president, even though it’s hard. He takes on hard things because he believes they’re important to get done. Hard things often need bipartisan support.”
“One thing I would note,” Carney continued, “is there was bipartisan support at the highest levels of the Republican Party – including the president, George W. Bush, including Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party’s nominee in 2008.”
The proposal has even less support today, however, with McCain and other Republicans having largely reversed themselves on the issue.
Obama is likely less concerned about pushing the proposal than about appealing to a political base in the lead up to his 2012 reelection campaign, says Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, a pro-border enforcement group.
“If Bush couldn’t get an amnesty bill passed, any bipartisan consensus for an amnesty bill now is not possible,” Dane told CNSNews.com.
Dane wondered why the president has only talked about the matter with people who already agree with him.
“Where are the true stakeholders in immigration policy – the American people?” he asked. “They will pay the cost for immigration policy, but they don’t have a seat at the table with the far-left, big business and special interests.”
Obama will visit El Paso Tuesday to deliver remarks about immigration reform, before traveling to Austin for two fundraising events for the Democratic National Committee.
El Paso is one of nine Border Patrol sectors along the almost 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border, running from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Ocean. Located directly across from the Mexican city of Juarez, it has been among the more dangerous border areas in recent years.
Carney declined to say whether Obama would raise any new aspects during the visit. He did indicate that “border security” would be on the agenda – but “not border security alone.”
“The number of border agents today is double what it was in 2004,” he said. “We’ve got triple the number of intelligence analysts working the boarder. We’ve deployed unmanned aerial vehicles that now patrol the border from Texas to California. We are screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments to seize guns and money going south, even as we go after drugs coming north.”
Carney also stressed the economic impact of immigration.
“It is simply foolish as a matter of policy when we think about global competition, economic competition that we face in the 21st Century, to educate some of the smartest, most creative entrepreneurial young people from around the world in our universities, the finest in the world, and then not let them stay and start businesses to launch startups, to create jobs in America,” he said.
“[New York] Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg noted this fact – in recent years over 25 percent of high tech startups in the United States were founded by immigrants. We’ve been deporting 50,000 jobs.”