Worries that issues like greenhouse gas emissions and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster might take priority over immigration reform had been raised in recent months, however Obama publicly addressed the issue for the first time on Friday, July 2nd.

In his much-hyped address at the American University in Washington, he asked Congress to get to work on legislation that would help fix the United States’ current immigration system as well as provide a way for illegal residents to become United States citizens. An estimated 11 million people currently living in the United States are doing so illegally, but Obama said that deporting them all is not an option as many have been leading established lives for decades.

President Obama broadly described the details of his proposal to help fix the immigration system, saying the country needs a “practical, common sense approach”. His proposal also outlines a possible system to allow currently illegal residents in the United States to become legal citizens, which may involve them admitting to breaking the law, settling up on any taxes owed, paying fines and learning English while registering to become citizens. Obama said that measures such as this would be ones he supports, but it is up to Congress to come up with legislation.

While not described in detail, Obama has also said that immigration reform will not only address illegal immigration and illegal residents, but U.S. Visas and border security.

Critics have said that people living in the country illegally should have some kind of blanket amnesty, but Obama mentioned that would not be fair to the many people going the legal route to obtain citizenship and may create an even larger illegal immigration problem.

However, decisions and new legislation may not come soon enough, perhaps at least until the mid-term elections are over in November so that the politicians can protect their votes in anti-immigration areas.

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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