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Public Statements

Issue Position: Immigration and the Border

Issue Position

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Barack Obama believes the immigration issue has been exploited by politicians to divide the nation rather than find real solutions. This divisiveness has allowed the illegal immigration problem to worsen, with borders that are less secure than ever and an economy that depends on millions of workers living in the shadows.

Obama believes we must rise above divisive politics and act in the interests of our national and economic security. Obama has played a leading role in crafting comprehensive immigration reform and believes that our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a solution that strengthens our security while reaffirming our heritage as a nation of immigrants.

Creating Secure Borders

Barack Obama wants to preserve the integrity of our borders to reduce illegal immigration. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure, and technology on the border and at our ports of entry. Obama believes we need additional Customs and Border Protection agents equipped with better technology and real-time intelligence. However, enforcing our borders is only one step of comprehensive immigration reform. Despite tripling the size of the U.S. Border Patrol along the southern border between 1990-2005, the undocumented population doubled in size, the death rate of border crossings tripled, and the per-apprehension cost increased from $300 in 1992 to $1700 in 2002, according to the Center for American Progress.

Removing Incentives to Enter Illegally

To remove incentives to enter the country illegally, we need to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Barack Obama has championed a proposal with Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Max Baucus (D-MT) to create a new employment eligibility verification system so employers could verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S., making it fair to legal workers and tougher on employers.

Improving Legal Immigration

The overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, come into this country with the hope that hard work and sacrifice will secure a better life for their children. Every year, an estimated 500,000-800,000 people enter the country illegally or illegally overstay their visa. Another million enter legally. Barack Obama believes we must address illegal immigration by stronger border measures and fixing the dysfunctional bureaucracy to balance the needs of American workers and the U.S. economy.

That includes creating legal avenues for people to work here. Barack Obama believes immigrant workers should have legal protections to avoid abuse and downward pressure on American wages and working conditions.

Obama believes that we have to fix our immigration system to increase the number of people we allow into the country legally to a level that unites families and meets the demand for workers for jobs employers cannot fill.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has decided to raise fees on applications to as much as $2,400 for a family of four. Obama joined Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to introduce the Citizenship Promotion Act to ensure that immigration application fees are both reasonable and fair. This bill reverses large fee increases for legal immigrants seeking to become citizens and provides grants to states to help educate and promote citizenship.

A key choke point in the process to becoming a legal permanent resident or a U.S. citizen is the FBI name/security check. Many law-abiding legal immigrants see their immigration applications delayed by months and often years as the overwhelmed FBI completes their background check. Obama introduced legislation that passed the Senate to improve the speed and accuracy of these background checks.

Bringing People Out of the Shadows

America has always been a nation of immigrants. There are millions of people living in the shadows that would like to fully embrace our values and become full members of our democracy. For the millions here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must encourage them to come out of hiding and get right with the law. Barack Obama supports a system that requires undocumented immigrants that are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, not commit crimes, go to the back of the line for citizenship, and then after all those conditions are met, they would be granted the opportunity to stay in the United States.

Honoring our Immigrant Troops

About 69,300 foreign-born men and women serve in the U.S. armed forces, roughly 5 percent of the total active-duty force. Of those, 43 percent - 29,800 - are not U.S. citizens. The Pentagon says more than 100 immigrant soldiers have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama believes that legal immigrants who have fought for us overseas should have expedited procedures towards citizenship.


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