WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday said “we are a nation of immigrants” and “we need a system that works for all of us.”
Speaking at an “Open for Questions” roundtable at the White House, Obama answered Yahoo!, MSN Latino and AOL Latino/Huffington Post Latino Voices readers’ questions on immigration, employment, education and healthcare.
“We are a nation of laws, but we’re also a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have … strengthened America’s economy,” Obama said, noting he was a co-sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform legislation as a U.S. senator.
“We need a system that works for all of us. … For those persons are here, we have to … provide a legal pathway so they can get out of the shadows and contribute to society,” Obama said.
The president said increased border security is an important first step in controlling immigration. He said the increase in deportations under his administration is due to more apprehensions at the border and not the result of tracking down illegal immigrants who have “put down roots here and are part of the fabric of our community.”
The president lamented there are no more Republican supporters of the Dream Act, a bill that would grant permanent residency to some undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools. He said he wants to “push Republicans back to where they were” a few years ago, adding, “Our enforcement priority is not to chase down young people who are going to school.”
“We’ve tried to be as fair, humane and just as we can, recognizing the laws themselves need to be changed,” he said.
Addressing questions on the struggling economy and the 11.3 percent unemployment rate among Hispanics in America, Obama said the recession that has dominated much of his administration is a “worldwide phenomenon” and put some of the blame on Europe, which he said hasn’t put its best foot forward in trying to control its banking crisis. He also blamed turmoil in the Middle East and the ensuing increase in oil and gas prices for constraining U.S. economic growth.
Obama said he is introducing tax breaks that would boost construction and education, sectors of the economy many Hispanics rely on for employment.
The president also emphasized his efforts to reform underperforming schools to mitigate dropout rates and urged American youth to “turn off the TV, stop playing the video games, do your homework.”