“We Were Strangers Once Too”

November 20, 2014

President Obama used his address to the nation Thursday night to broadly outline his planned changes to immigration policy, but he spent most of his time making his case in human terms. The speech was light on specifics, but he indicated that his plan would focus on the following three policy goals:

  1. Further strengthening border security
  2. Making it easier and faster for skilled immigrants to come to the U.S., and to stay once here
  3. Taking steps to responsibly address the millions of undocumented immigrants already here

It is that last point that received the bulk of the President’s attention. He repeatedly stressed that undocumented immigrants largely came here to work hard, to build a better life for themselves and their families, and to contribute to America’s success. He also repeatedly emphasized that we are all a nation of immigrants, and that we all know the heart of the stranger in a strange land, because “we were strangers once too.”

In addition to his stirring appeals to the good nature of the American people, the address contained the following notable bits:

  • The President echoed verbatim the talking points leaked earlier in the week, that deportation efforts should focus on “felons not families, criminals not children.”
  • The required period of stay for undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents will be 5 years. There was a question as to whether this requirement would be for 5 years or 10.
  • The President responded to charges that his plan represented amnesty, countering that “amnesty is the system we have today” where undocumented immigrants live in the shadows, don’t pay taxes, etc. This is contrasted with the President’s plan, which will involve various forms of accountability, and which will require undocumented immigrants to “get to the back of the line.”

Point #2 – making it easier for skilled immigrants to come and stay – has received little attention in the press, but is very important in its own right. We will eagerly be listening for any updates, the first of which are expected tomorrow at the rally in Las Vegas.

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