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Barack Obama On Immigration In 2012: Not So Different From 2011

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WASHINGTON -- When President Obama's immigration policy staffers gathered to help pen the State of the Union Address passage dedicated to their issue, they didn't have much to work with. Comprehensive immigration reform never came close, and the Dream Act failed. What's a speechwriter to do?

Control-C. Control-V.

"I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration," Obama said in his Tuesday evening speech.

Indeed, he "strongly believe[d] that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration" last year, according to his State of the Union speech.

This year, he reminded lawmakers that "hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren't yet American citizens," an allusion to the Dream Act, which would provide legal status to some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, if they join the military or attend college.

Last year, too, he talked about the "hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens."

Obama, who broke the record in fiscal 2011 for deportations, then turned to the fears these young people face. "Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation," he said in 2012.

"They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation," he said in 2011.

Some immigrants should not be deported, he said. Obama supports legislation that would help immigrants who graduate college in the U.S., especially those with advanced degrees, obtain legal status. Sending graduates home "doesn't make sense," he said on Tuesday. "It makes no sense," he said in 2011.

He seemed more hopeful in 2011 that such legislation could be passed. "I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort," he said then. "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."

This year, his expectations are lower, as the pleading phrase "at least" was added to the request.

"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," he said.

In 2010, as a comparison, Obama mentioned immigration once in his speech, which was largely focused on health care reform.

"We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -- to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation," he said in the January 2010 speech.

Read the full immigration remarks from 2012:

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.

Read the full immigration remarks from 2011:

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.

Around the Web

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