Wednesday, April 29, 2009 marked President Obama's 100th day in office. As expected, immigration took a back seat to more pressing issues like the economy at the beginning of Obama's presidency.
One important milestone was achieved early on: President Obama signed the Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation at the beginning of February, which repealed the 5-year waiting period for immigrant children. Under the new legislation, legal immigrant children from families who meet the income requirements no longer have to wait five years for state health insurance.
Beyond SCHIP, there was little forward movement from an immigration standpoint, other than a pledge from the President to pursue immigration reform legislation before year-end.
Following is an excerpt on the topic of immigration reform from a transcript of President Obama's First 100 Days speech:
Question: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, when you met with the Hispanic Caucus a few weeks ago, reports came out that the White House was planning to have a forum to talk about immigration and bring it to the forefront.
Going forward, my question is, what is your strategy to try to have immigration reform? And are you still on the same timetable to have it accomplished in the first year of your presidency?
And, also, I'd like to know if you're going to reach out to Senator John McCain, who is Republican and in the past has favored immigration reform?
Obama: Well, we reach out to -- to Senator McCain on a whole host of issues. He has been a leader on immigration reform. I think he has had the right position on immigration reform. And I would love to partner with him and others on what is going to be a critical issue.
We've also worked with Senator McCain on what I think is a terrific piece of legislation that he and Carl Levin have put together around procurement reform. We want that moved, and we're going to be working hard with them to get that accomplished.
What I told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is exactly what I said the very next day in a town hall meeting and what I will continue to say publicly, and that is we want to move this process.
We can't continue with a broken immigration system. It's not good for anybody. It's not good for American workers. It's dangerous for Mexican would-be workers who are trying to cross a dangerous border.
It is--it is putting a strain on border communities, who oftentimes have to deal with a host of undocumented workers. And it keeps those undocumented workers in the shadows, which means they can be exploited at the same time as they're depressing U.S. wages.
So, what I hope to happen is that we're able to convene a working group, working with key legislators like Luis Gutierrez and Nydia Velazquez and others to start looking at a framework of how this legislation might be shaped.
In the meantime, what we're trying to do is take some core -- some key administrative steps to move the process along to lay the groundwork for legislation. Because the American people need some confidence that if we actually put a package together, we can execute.
So Janet Napolitano, who has great knowledge of this because of having been a border governor, she's already in the process of reviewing and figuring out how can we strengthen our border security in a much more significant way than we're doing.
If the American people don't feel like you can secure the borders, then it's hard to strike a deal that would get people out of the shadows and on a pathway to citizenship who are already here, because the attitude of the average American is going to be, well, you're just going to have hundreds of thousands of more coming in each year.
On the other hand, showing that there is a more thoughtful approach than just raids of a handful of workers as opposed to, for example, taking seriously the violation of companies that sometimes are actively recruiting these workers to come in. That's again something we can start doing administratively.
So what we want to do is to show that we are competent and getting results around immigration, even on the structures that we already have in place, the laws that we already have in place, so that we're building confidence among the American people that we can actually follow through on whatever legislative approach emerges. OK?
Obama: I see the process moving this first year. And I'm going to be moving it as quickly as I can. I've been accused of doing too much. We are moving full steam ahead on all fronts.
Ultimately, I don't have control of the legislative calendar, and so we're going to work with legislative leaders to see what we can do.