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Immigration Should Be A Top National Priority

Kathryn van Handroff |
February 4, 2013 | 6:45 p.m. PST


On January 21, the United States witnessed President Obama’s second inaugural address. On that brisk, winter morning, news crews inundated the scene, as roars of applause from the audience echoed throughout the metropolitan area and beyond, seeping into the homes of millions of citizens through radios and televisions alike.

Obama must address immigration sooner rather than later. (Nevele Otseog, Creative Commons)
Obama must address immigration sooner rather than later. (Nevele Otseog, Creative Commons)

Critics have evaluated President Obama’s speech with keen eyes. Among the arguments that have been raised in regards to the address, Obama’s discussion of immigration is one of the most highly debated issues. During his discourse, President Obama uttered but one sentence concerning immigration: “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”

Sadly, by skating past the topic of immigration, the president chose to gloss over a subject that ought to be at the forefront of America’s agenda. A declaration intended to inspire within the hearts of all Americans the sense of a better future actually put immigrants on the back burner. By twisting the ugly business of immigration into a heart-warming account of aspiration, President Obama reduced the issue of immigration to merely another mediocre affair unworthy of immediate action.

It is imperative that the Obama Administration make immigration a higher priority. The stresses President Obama may face in confronting immigration cannot and do not compare to the many horrors endured by immigrants to this country. Frankly, the President’s disregard of the struggles and desperate desires of a myriad of people, save for the mere seconds in which the President proclaimed the welcoming of immigrants to be an “incomplete journey”, is astonishing; President Obama minimized the obstacles immigrants endure to little more than mundane proceedings in his one sentence, idealized portrait of immigration.

Furthermore, as Lawrence Downes said in the New York Times, “For all his talk of enlisting, not expelling, hopeful strivers, [expulsion is] … a view that Mr. Obama has often bought into. He remains the expeller-in-chief, who has deported more people more quickly than any of his predecessors.”

We Americans must ask ourselves how it is that President Obama has deported more people more quickly than any other president in history, and how we can go put an end these acts of banishment.

Key facts continue shed light on immigration under the Obama Administration, as the President supposedly chips away at the barriers blocking his so-called “incomplete journey” to enlisting immigrants in the American workforce. Released in September 2012, the Office of Immigration Statistics Annual Report “presents information on foreign nationals found inadmissible, apprehended, arrested, detained, returned, and removed during 2011.” Critical counts of these individuals were found to be in the hundreds of thousands, according to date released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPH), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):


  • "CBP found 212,000 foreign nationals inadmissible for entry into the United States.
  • DHS made 642,000 apprehensions of foreign nationals; 76 percent were natives of Mexico.
  • ICE detained approximately 429,000 foreign nationals, an all-time high.
  • DHS returned 324,000 foreign nationals to their home countries without a removal order.
  • DHS removed 392,000 foreign nationals from the United States. The leading countries of origin of those removed were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
  • ICE removed 188,000 known criminal aliens form the United States, an all-time high."


It is essential for the Obama Administration to reassess the gravity of immigration in the U.S. Likewise, the administration needs to become more aware of the detrimental effects it has upon the country when it treats immigration as anything less than an issue of the utmost significance. The admittance of criminal aliens is but one example of what is at stake when carelessness comes into play. Not only are countless controversies and numerous adverse consequences a direct result from the admittance of such aliens, but the safety of the American people is jeopardized, further complicating multiple variables associated with immigration and crime in this country.

Not to mention, the Obama administration spent more money—$18 billion—on immigration enforcement last year than on all the other major federal law enforcement agencies combined. While some may argue the President is taking immigration seriously, based primarily on the figure above, it is crucial to remain cognizant of what the figure really represents. What exactly is that copious sum of money actively contributing toward immigration enforcement? And how are such endeavors, fueled by said money, bringing about desirable outcomes for the United States? Let us not be a nation whose measure of success is contingent on the sacrifice of the futures of millions, by way of spending money we do not have, in order to bring about comfort for those whose lives have never been tested by such adversity.

As of now, the Democratic-led Senate, in an effort to win Republican support, is planning a full-fledged Congressional debate on immigration reform, to allow more time to examine the most sensitive issues. Thus, another several months, if not a whole year, will pass before an immigration bill is even considered by the President. In this time, the lives of untold numbers of immigrants and potential immigrants will be forever altered by the decisions of those in power. Despite the consistent brutality witnessed in connection to the immigration process, the U.S., specifically the U.S. government under the Obama Administration, perpetually extends the time it spends grappling with immigration laws, as political debate continues to rage like wildfire.

As the child of a legal immigrant, I have a first-hand understanding of the weight of what it means to bear the title “American”, as well as a second-hand understanding I have gained from my father’s perspective. For this reason, I recognize the significance of my position as a citizen of the United States. Immigrating itself is not easy, nor do I pretend, nor wish to convey the pretense, that those in power do not have a great weight upon their shoulders. However, their decisions reverberate world-wide, leaping over boundaries and spilling into areas of political unrest most Americans, including myself, can hardly conceptualize, much less understand. Thus it is because of their positions as leaders in this nation that they must make wise, timely decisions, both in order for our country to flourish and to change the fate of others whose names we do not know and whose torments we will, hopefully, never have to experience.

Reach Contributor Kathryn van Handroff here.



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