In the wake of divisive and ill-conceived actions by states, President Obama delivered a much needed policy statement on immigration reform. It is my hope that it will bring light to dark places and place this important debate on a clear, objective footing, beyond the ideological rhetoric and partisan politics of the day.
The President's address on comprehensive immigration reform is a high moment of vision, in the tradition of Roosevelt's fireside chats -- passionate, compassionate, clear, comprehensive and challenging. It challenged those who want rational change, challenged the undocumented, challenged corporate employers, challenged the frightened and the frustrated to lift their vision above our fear and pain.
President Obama laid out a pathway to citizenship, not just for the southern boarder, but for Canada, Haitians, Cubans and those on student visas. He outlined a pathway to dignity based on fairness and stability -- a pathway based on redemption, not punishment. He put the moral burden on the blessed of us to help the rest of us.
America's past and future must drive us forward by hope and not backwards by fear.
Comprehensive immigration reform is a test of our character; a test that measures the best in us. America must pass this test and make Lady Liberty smile and keep the flame burning.
Are we the United States of America -- the land of immigrants who came, and come, to live in a society with a yearning to breathe free?
The President answered with strength and optimism, "We celebrate the spirit of possibility -- an ethic that says if you're willing to put your shoulder to the wheel and apply your God-given talents, if you believe in yourself and you play by the rules, then there is a place for you in the United States of America -- no matter where you come from and no matter what you look like."
One fact is indisputable. Immigrants are an integral and inseparable part of America's economic fabric. Immigrants are not criminals and should not be criminalized.
Comprehensive immigration reform is needed now more than ever before. The federal government must quickly move to enact legislation, and stem the trend of individual states setting misguided immigration policies that should be under the purview of the federal government. There is no time to waste.
I commend the direction of our President, who said today, "That's the promise of America. That is the spirit that all of you are renewing here today."
Follow Rev. Jesse Jackson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/revjjackson