Obama Calls for Immigration Reform

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Updated, 4:40 p.m.

At a naturalization ceremony held this morning for active-duty service members, President Obama called on Congress to take up immigration reform, pointing to Arizona’s controversial immigration bill  — which some observers have denounced as draconian, or even fascist — as underscoring the need for new federal standards. From Obama’s speech:

[…]So responsibility.  Accountability.  Common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform.  I thank Secretary Napolitano for helping to lead our efforts, both on and off Capitol Hill.  And I thank Senators Schumer and Graham for working with us to forge a bipartisan consensus on a framework for moving forward, and I welcome the commitment of House and Senate Democratic leaders to take action.

I’ll continue to consult with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and I would note that 11 current Republican Senators voted to pass immigration reform four years ago.  I’m hopeful that they will join with Democrats in doing so again so we can make the progress the American people deserve.

Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others.  And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.

In fact, I’ve instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation. But if we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.

It will be interesting to see how Congressional Democrats proceed. It’s too soon to book financial re-regulation in the win column, but with a cloture vote slated for late Monday afternoon, there’s been a lot of buzz over whether immigration reform will leapfrog energy legislation as the next item on the Democratic agenda. The sweeping nature of the Arizona legislation — the bill, which is sitting on Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed Friday afternoon*, will require police to stop suspected illegal immigrants and arrest those who lack proper documentation — may have played a role in spurring Democrats to address an issue central to one of its core constituencies. And while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicates she will take up immigration reform if the Senate acts first, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the party’s point man on both issues, is urging Majority Leader Harry Reid to stick to the original script.

*More on Brewer’s decision here.