09/18/2012 09:34 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

52 Reasons to Vote For Obama: #19, Responsible Immigration Reform


Whether you're PRObama, NObama, or still undecided, 52 Reasons to Vote for Obama gives you all the information you need to share with friends, debate with relatives and decide for yourself as we head toward one of the most important elections of our lifetime. I'll post a new reason in random order every Monday through Friday from now 'til the election.

[W]e are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -- the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That is why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. -- President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 25, 2011

We are indeed a nation of immigrants. For too long, our country has failed to address the very real need for comprehensive immigration reform. We have allowed politics to get in the way of progress, and millions have suffered as a result. That's why President Obama announced this June that undocumented youths who came here as children would no longer be deported under certain conditions.

2012-09-18-responsibleimmigration.jpgTo qualify, individuals must be no older than thirty, and younger than sixteen, when they arrived in the United States; have been here at least five years; be enrolled in school, have graduated from high school, or have served in the military; and have no felony or serious misdemeanor convictions. An estimated 700,000 K to 12 students, including 150,000 currently enrolled in high school, could benefit, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Up to 1.4 million young immigrants in total may qualify.

President Obama took this extraordinary step in the face of a Republican Congress that has refused to do anything on immigration, including passing the DREAM Act, which would give undocumented students who came to the United States as minors the chance to obtain permanent U.S. residency if they go to college or serve in the military, and to eventually apply for citizenship if they desire.

In the absence of a legal path to citizenship, which Republicans have consistently blocked, the temporary measure President Obama has taken will remove the threat of deportation for two years, after which time individuals would need to reapply. Speaking about why he made this decision, he said:

I've met these young people all across the country. They're studying in our schools. They're playing with our children, pledging allegiance to our flag, hoping to serve our country. They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds. They are Americans through and through -- in every single way but on paper. And all they want is to go to college and give back to the country they love.

In addition, to make it easier for undocumented immigrants who are immediate family members of American citizens to apply for permanent residency, President Obama is proposing to allow them to stay in the United States while they apply, a move that could affect as many as one million of the estimated eleven million immigrants living here illegally. Under the current process, those applying for citizenship may be separated from their families for long stretches of time, as many as ten years. This reform would cut down that time to as little as a week apart under a "hardship waiver."

President Obama has also prioritized border security, with twice as many border patrol agents now as in 2004, and today there are fewer illegal crossings than at any time in the past forty years. The administration has focused on deporting criminals who threaten our communities, and such deportations are up 80 percent. Mitt Romney has promised to veto the DREAM Act, supports "self-deportation," and calls Arizona's recent law, which makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant and requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop if they suspect the person may be in the country illegally, a "model for the country on immigration."

Even the conservative U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of the provisions of this draconian law that Romney has enthusiastically supported. Obama has condemned this legislation since it was first passed.

Barack Obama is committed to securing our borders and establishing a path to citizenship for those responsible immigrants already in this country. Mitt Romney seems intent on becoming the most anti-immigrant U.S. presidential candidate in modern history.

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