TRANSCRIPT: President Obama Makes Statement on Immigration Policy Changes
Below is the full transcript from today's remarks given by President Obama in the White House Rose Garden following changes being made to the nation's policy on illegal immigrants.
"Good afternoon everybody. This morning Secretary Napolitano announced new actions my administration will take to mend a nation's immigration policy to make it more fair, more efficient, and more just.
Specifically for certain young people, sometimes [UNIDENTIFIABLE] dreamers. Now these are young people who studied in our schools, who play in our neighborhoods, friends with our kids,
who pledge allegiance to our flag.
They are Americans in their heart, their minds, in every single way but one..on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes eve as infants and often have no idea that they are undocumented until they apply for a job or a drivers license or a college scholarship.
Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you have done everything right in your entire life, studied hard, worked hard, maybe have even graduated at the top of their class only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak.
That is what gave rise to the Dream Act. It says that if your parents brought you here as a child, you've been here for five years and you're willing to go to college, to serve in our military, you can one day earn your citizenship.
I've said time and time and time again to congress, "send me the Dream Act and put it on my desk and I will sign it right away."
Now both parties wrote this legislation and a year a half ago Democrats passed the Dream Act in the House, but Republicans walked away from it. It got 55 votes in the Senate, but Republicans botched the bill hasn't really changed. The need hasn't changed. It's still the right thing to do, the only thing that has changed apparently was the politics.
Now as I had said in my speech on the economy yesterday, it makes no sense to expel talented young people who for all intensive purposes are American and have been raised as Americans.
They've been raised as Americans; understand themselves to be part of this country. To expel these young people, who want to staff our labs or start new businesses or defend our country simply because of the actions of their parents or because of the inaction of politicians.
In the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system; what we've tried to do is focus our immigration enforcement resources in the right places. So we prioritized border security; putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history.
Today there are fewer illegal crossings than at any time in the past 40 years. We've focused and used discretion on whom to prosecute; focusing on criminals who endanger our communities rather than students who are earning their education.
And today deportation of criminals is up 80%. We've improved on that discretion carefully and thoughtfully. Well today, we're improving it again. Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.
Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.
Now let's be clear; this is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stop-gap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.
It is the right thing to do. Excuse me sir, it is not time for questions. Not while I am speaking. Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act.
There is still time for Congress to pass the DREAM Act this year, because these kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two year increments.
And we still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform that addresses 21 Century economic and security needs. Reform that gives our farmers and ranchers certainty about the workers that they'll have, reform that gives our science and technology sectors certainty that the young people who come here to earn their PHDs won't be forced to leave and start new businesses in other countries.
Reform that continues to improve our border security and lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
Just a few years ago, an unlikely trio of John McCain, Ted Kennedy, and President Bush came together to champion this kind of reform. And I was proud to join the three Republicans in voting for them.
So, there's no reason that we can't come together and get this done. As long as I'm President, I will not give up on this issue, not only because it is the right thing to do for our economy, and CEOs agree with me, not just that it's the right thing to do for our security, because it's the right thing to do period. And I believe that eventually enough Republicans in Congress will come around to that view as well.
And I believe that's the right thing to do because I've been with groups of young people who work so hard and speak with so much heart about what's best in America. Even though I know some of them must have lived under the fear of deportation.
I know some have come forward at great risks to themselves and their futures in hopes it would spur the rest of us to live up to our own most cherished values.
I've seen the stories of Americans, schools, churches and communities across the country who've stood up for it and rallied behind them, and pushed us to give them a better path and freedom from fear. Because we're a better nation than one who expels innocent young kids.
And the answer to your question sir (points out to crowd), next time I'd prefer if you let me finish my statements before you ask that question, is it this is the right thing to do for the American people. I didn't ask for an argument, I'm answering your question. It is the right thing to do for the American people and here's why.
Here's the reason. Because these young people are going to make extraordinary contributions and are already making contributions to our society. I've got a young person who is serving in our military, protecting us and our freedom, with the notion that in some ways you would treat them as expendable makes no sense.
There's a young person here, who has grown up here, and wants to contribute to this society, maybe wants to start a business that will create jobs for other folks who are looking for work. That's the right thing to do.
Giving certainty to our farmers and our ranchers, making sure that in addition to border security, we're creating a comprehensive framework for legal immigration. These are all the right things to do.
We have always drawn strength from being a nation of immigrants, as well as a nation of laws, and that's going to continue, and my hope is that Congress recognizes that and gets behind this effort. Alright, thank you very much everybody."