Throughout President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, he touched on several policy areas where NCSL has played an active role in advancing the interests of the states. The president also spoke about a number of areas where states have led the way. Below are excerpts from the president’s speech followed by information on how NCSL has been active on the issue and information summarizing state action on the issue.
NCSL is pleased to note that both President Obama and Senator Marco Rubio, who gave the Republican response, are former state legislators. President Obama served in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 until 2004, and Senator Rubio served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2009. During his last two years in the Florida House, Senator Rubio served as Speaker.
Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.
And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.
In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.
As a result of the federal government’s inaction on this issue, states have been forced to pick up the tab and responsibility. In the last five years, states have considered thousands of bills related to immigration – over 2,500 in the last two years alone. States have a stake in the outcome of the immigration debate and through NCSL are asking Congress to join with them in supporting comprehensive immigration reform that includes assistance to states for the multitude of services they provide for immigrants.
On Jan. 28, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, referred to as the “gang of eight,” unveiled a four-page “framework” for comprehensive immigration reform legislation, to be introduced in late-March. Since then, NCSL’s Washington office has met with the offices of several of the eight senators and is working to ensure that states are seen as important stakeholders in the process.