Professor Robert Pastor
President Obama is correct that U.S. immigration policy is broken and needs fixing. The central issue is what to do about illegal migration, and his answers are: a more secure border, better verification at the workplace, and a path to legalization for those who are already here. He is correct about all three, but there are two flaws in his approach.
The workplace is the best area to control illegal migration, but to do so, all Americans will need a biometric ID, and I suspect that will be very difficult politically to do without a commission that makes the case. Secondly, the only long-term approach to illegal migration that will work is to close the income gap separating Mexico from the U.S. This will require a substantial amount of resources and vision, but no one is even talking about it.
Professor Christopher Rudolph
President Obama's speech was remarkable, not so much in that there was much new presented, but simply in his sincere desire to begin a national conversation about immigration. As he said, our current "patchwork" immigration policy approach isn't working. Much of what was said mirrors the terms of the debate raised a few years ago by the legislation fowarded by Senators Kennedy and McCain. The clear emphasis was less on rethinking U.S. immigration policy more broadly (i.e. comprehensively), and more on what to do about the continuing problem of illegal immigration and the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently estimated to be living in the United States.
In reconciling this problem, the president's message was clear to both the political Left and Right: the problem can only be addressed through compromise. Those advocating for blanket amnesty simply don't have the necessary political support to succeed, a condition shared by those who seek only to advance more restrictive policies. He urged Congress to begin work on finding common ground and craft some kind of grand bargain. While this is likely the only real substantive policy agenda forwarded by the President, he also alluded to the need to think more broadly about U.S. policy. To that end, his calls for the beginning of new dialogue couldn't come at a better time.