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Las Cruces Sun-News - Obama Talks About Immigration, Border Security

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Location: Las Cruces, NM

Las Cruces Sun-News - Obama Talks About Immigration, Border Security
By Diana M. Alba Sun-News reporter

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said Monday he backs continued funding for the state's military and research installations, including White Sands Missile Range.

Obama, in a phone interview with the Sun-News, also said he believes defense-related research facilities in New Mexico will play a role in the nation achieving energy independence by helping develop alternative energy technology.

The Democratic candidate campaigned in Albuquerque on Monday, speaking to supporters at Rio Grande High School and to a group of about 50 women at a city library.

Obama spoke to the Sun-News about his plan for immigration reform.

That plan includes boosting border security, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, improving the immigration system and creating a legal pathway for undocumented immigrants already in the United States to gain citizenship.

Obama said he approves of continuing Operation JumpStart — an initiative that placed members of the National Guard along the border to assist the U.S. Border Patrol — until Border Patrol staffing can be increased.

The two-year Operation JumpStart ended in June, but some, including Gov. Bill Richardson, pushed for it to be continued.

Obama heads to Raleigh, N.C., today, where he will appear at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.

Here are the highlights of the Sun-News interview:

Sun-News: As president, would you support continued funding of installations such as White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory?

Obama: "Yes. Not only do I think we're going to continue to have critical national security needs that are best-served by the military installations here in New Mexico, but our investment in research and development in places like Los Alamos often has enormous spin-off effects, not only in terms of jobs created, but also new technologies that can be spun off into the private sector.

"I want to increase our devotion to research and development investment, and I believe that New Mexico can benefit from that, particularly in the energy area.

"I think the issue of energy independence is a national security issue. Given the enormous resources we have in our research facilities here in New Mexico, working with them to deal with issues like solar power, wind power, how we can translate these resources to replace foreign oil is absolutely critical."

Sun-News: Can you outline your plan for immigration reform?

Obama: "I believe we are a nation of immigrants, and we should encourage immigration, but we should encourage legal immigration. ... I'm committed to moving this forward as part of my first-term agenda.

"I think that we have to have stronger border security, better patrols, more surveillance. We have to crack down on employers, like the employer, the meat-packer we saw in Iowa, exploiting undocumented workers.

"But we also have to provide a pathway to citizenship, I believe, for undocumented workers who have put down roots here, oftentimes have children who are U.S. citizens. And that means they have to register, pay a fine, learn English, go to the back of the line so that they are not getting citizenship before those who have applied legally, but that they are able over time to earn their citizenship.

"That I think is the way we can both have a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants."

Sun-News: It seems a major hurdle so far to achieving immigration reform has been getting consensus within and between parties in Washington. As president, do you think that would be something you could help achieve?

Obama: "I think the majority of Americans want a sensible immigration program, one that recognizes that there are legitimate reasons that we have to have secure borders but also expresses compassion for families that are here and have put down roots.

"And, the key is to, I think, move beyond the demagoguery and the politics and just try to solve the problem. All the shouting and attempts to solve this problem only through enforcement hasn't led to much because it hasn't been part of an overall, comprehensive approach.

"I think a president could use the bully pulpit to craft that kind of strategy and that kind of approach."

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