Obama challenges Congress to reform immigration laws

United States President Barack Obama encouraged Congress to promptly draft a bill that would comprehensively overhaul immigration during a visit to a Las Vegas high school Jan. 29.

Obama’s proposal contains four principles, including strengthening border security shared between the U.S. and Mexico, an increase in law enforcement against companies that hire undocumented workers, holding illegal immigrants accountable for their actions before a chance of earning citizenship, and streamlining the legal immigration system.

Immigration reform has received support from both sides of the aisle, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

“Our current immigration system is inflexible and broken,” Snyder said. “It has hurt our economy by deterring foreign investment and making it harder for our companies to find the talent they need to grow and create more jobs. (Immigrants) can help our core industries – automotive, agriculture and tourism – continue to drive Michigan’s comeback, and help our nation remain an economic superpower.”

Meanwhile, Obama hopes that by enacting reform measures, the 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. will receive a more simple path to citizenship.

However, these undocumented immigrants must first register with the U.S. government, submit biometric data, pay various fees and penalties, and pass national security and criminal background checks.

After performing these tasks, illegal immigrants will earn a provisional legal status in which they are ineligible for any federal benefits, but may lawfully reside within the U.S. From there, they may apply for a green card and eventually full U.S. citizenship.

“I think the current proposals are a first step to a better and more enlightened immigration policy,” said Orlando Perez, a chairman in the Political Science department at Central Michigan University. “The key is to develop a system that is efficient and humane while preserving the right of the country to control its borders.”

Obama’s proposal also provides the elimination of annual immigrant caps by country as well as the addition of visas to the immigration system.

A further immigration revision includes federally implanting the DREAM Act, which allows children brought to the U.S. illegally the ability to earn citizenship after two years of attending college or serving in the Armed Forces.

Though Obama did not mention it in his speech, his proposal also includes recognizing same-sex families and lawful permanent residents seeking a permanent visa with a same-sex partner.

“The current proposals are certainly a starting point for the discussion, and I think there is a lot more information and ideas that are needed to move forward,” said Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant. “I look forward to following the discussion.”

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