There’s a lot of wrestling today over what Barack Obama’s immigration speech means. I would submit it means about the same thing it did the last time he gave it— in July 2010.
Below are the pertinent parts of, well, both speeches. Remember when the 2010 speech kicked off a serious, concentrated effort to move comprehensive immigration reform through Congress through the heroic efforts of Obama, the bipartisan zen master? Yeah, me neither. Often, an Obama speech is just a kick-off for…more Obama speeches.
2011: At times, there has been fear and resentment directed towards newcomers, especially in hard economic times.
2010: Now, we can’t forget that this process of immigration and eventual inclusion has often been painful. Each new wave of immigrants has generated fear and resentments towards newcomers, particularly in times of economic upheaval.
2011: And then when I think about immigration I think about the naturalization ceremonies that we’ve held at the White House for members of our military. Nothing could be more inspiring. Even though they were not yet citizens when they joined our military, these men and women signed up to serve…
Another was a woman named Perla Ramos who was born and raised in Mexico and came to the United States shortly after 9/11, and joined the Navy. And she said, “I take pride in our flag and the history we write day by day.”
2010: This past April, we held a naturalization ceremony at the White House for members of our armed forces. Even though they were not yet citizens, they had enlisted. One of them was a woman named Perla Ramos — born and raised in Mexico, came to the United States shortly after 9/11, and she eventually joined the Navy. And she said, “I take pride in our flag and the history that forged this great nation and the history we write day by day.”
2011: What matters is that you believe in the ideals on which we were founded; that you believe that all of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. (Applause.) All of us deserve our freedoms and our pursuit of happiness. In embracing America, you can become American.
2010: …and that being an American is not a matter of blood or birth. It’s a matter of faith. It’s a matter of fidelity to the shared values that we all hold so dear. That’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes us strong. Anybody can help us write the next great chapter in our history.
2011: We can point to the genius of Einstein, the designs of I. M. Pei, the stories of Isaac Asimov, the entire industries that were forged by Andrew Carnegie.
2010: The scientific breakthroughs of Albert Einstein, the inventions of Nikola Tesla, the great ventures of Andrew Carnegie’s U.S. Steel and Sergey Brin’s Google, Inc. -– all this was possible because of immigrants.
2011: That’s the promise of this country — that anyone can write the next chapter in our story
2010: That’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes us strong. Anybody can help us write the next great chapter in our history.
2011: That’s one reason it’s been so difficult to reform our broken immigration system. When an issue is this complex, when it raises such strong feelings, it’s easier for politicians to defer until the problem the next election.
2010: Unfortunately, reform has been held hostage to political posturing and special-interest wrangling -– and to the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics.
2011: Today, there are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants here in the United States. Some crossed the border illegally. Others avoid immigration laws by overstaying their visas. Regardless of how they came, the overwhelming majority of these folks are just trying to earn a living and provide for their families.
2010: The overwhelming majority of these men and women are simply seeking a better life for themselves and their children.
2011: Also, because undocumented immigrants live in the shadows, where they’re vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses that skirt taxes, and pay workers less than the minimum wage, or cut corners with health and safety laws, this puts companies who follow the rules, and Americans who rightly demand the minimum wage or overtime or just a safe place to work, it puts those businesses at a disadvantage.
2010: Many settle in low-wage sectors of the economy; they work hard, they save, they stay out of trouble. But because they live in the shadows, they’re vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses who pay them less than the minimum wage or violate worker safety rules -– thereby putting companies who follow those rules, and Americans who rightly demand the minimum wage or overtime, at an unfair [dis]advantage.