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In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama called on Congress to enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The President highlighted the main points of the CIR package he wants to see: "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 and attract the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy."
The President praised bipartisan groups in both the Senate and House who are working on CIR legislation. He encouraged Congress to send him CIR legislation "in the next few months" and stated that he would sign such legislation immediately.
Republican reaction to the State of the Union was unfavorable on many points, but immigration was an area where Republicans showed potential common ground with the President.
In the official Republican response, Florida Senator Marco Rubio touched on immigration reform, emphasizing the need for improved border security: "We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world's best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws."
In a Tea Party-sponsored response, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul did not specifically address the issue of legalization, but he encouraged the Republican Party to have a positive view toward immigrants: "We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity; therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future. We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, ‘If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.'"
Wisconsin Representative and former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, commenting on the President's speech, said: "When you're in the legislative arena and we're trying to get a comprehensive bipartisan agreement here, the words he uses matter and he used what I thought was a measured tone that gives me a sense that he is trying to get something done, so he used measured words that were productive with immigration and I think that's an area we have a good chance of getting something done."
Bipartisan Legislation to Be Introduced Soon
As previously reported, a bipartisan group of eight Senators introduced a framework for CIR in late January and is now working on drafting specific legislation. Reports indicate that the President will meet with the Democratic Senators in that group in the coming days. Legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate in the next few weeks. A bipartisan group of House members is also working on CIR and is expected to introduce legislation soon. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on immigration last week. The Senate Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on immigration today.
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