Obama returns to El Paso to speak on Immigration Reform
Photos and Story by
Ricky J. Carrasco
“E Pluribus Unum” Out of many, one. With these words, President Barak Obama began to speak to a crowd of around 2000 El Pasoans on Tuesday, May 10, 2011. This marks the second time in less than 9 months that the President has visited El Paso. Last time, he was here to mark the end of official hostilities in Iraq by speaking to Ft. Bliss soldiers. This time, President Obama came to announce his continued efforts to reform US immigration policy. He came to the Border area in a symbolic gesture, El Paso being one of the largest immigration corridors in the country; the Cordova International bridge being a perfect backdrop to his speech.
The President’s speech centered on the importance of immigration and immigrants to American economic strength. “Immigration reform is an economic imperative.” Legal immigrants become Americans that become part of our workforce and the driving force behind job creation. Illegal immigrants endanger not only an unstable middle class by providing cheap labor outside the normal workforce, but they also endanger themselves to exploitation by unscrupulous employers. A better way, according to the President, is to find a way where the best and brightest from other countries, that find their way to our schools, stay to work here, innovate here, and create jobs and industry here in the United States. This scenario is especially true in UTEP, where a large percentage of students come from Mexico to study engineering and technology.
“Instead of training entrepreneurs to stay here, we train them to create jobs for our competition. That makes no sense. In a global marketplace, we need all the talent we can attract, all the talent we can get to stay here to start businesses — not just to benefit those individuals, but because their contribution will benefit all Americans. “
Obama also promised a return to supporting the passing of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) where minors who have lived and studied in the US for more than 6 years, and stayed out of criminal legal problems, are placed on a fast track to legal citizenship. That also concerns El Paso, as many area students do not legally attend area primary and high school. This has been a growing issue been in the last couple of years with the mass exodus out of Juarez. The President requested people’s support of the DREAM Act by visiting www.whitehouse.gov .
Many of the area’s well known people came out to support the President’s speech. Mayor Cook and Representative Silvestre Reyes travelled in the Presidential motorcade. Dr. Diana Natalicio, UTEP President, was also on-hand. “It was great to hear his commitment to young people, to our students, especially our student population in El Paso.” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Alan Bersin, Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, were also on-hand, as many of the policies they create are already in action at the El Paso border.
Ana Artalejo, who was very excited to have her shirt signed by the President, stated that she thought, “It was a really positive speech, very empowering and hopeful.” Artalejo says that she has family members are very much affected by current immigration policy. Jose Troncoso, a UTEP sophomore, said that “it sounds like he (the President) really wants to change immigration policy.” When asked what he will take away from this experience, Jose stated “it reinforces the idea that people need to vote in order to help change things for ourselves.”
Probably the best example of what is right with American immigration that President Obama brought with him was Jose Hernandez. Hernandez was born in the US to immigrant farm workers. In his childhood, he spent half of the year in the fields of California, and the other half in his parent’s hometown in Michoacan, Mexico. Spending little time in American schools as a youngster, he only began to speak English when he was twelve years old. He then began to attend high school regularly, devoting his time to his favorite subjects of math and the sciences. As an adult, Hernandez rode in the Space Shuttle Discovery as a flight engineer.
“That’s the American Dream right there. That’s what we’re fighting for. We are fighting for every boy and every girl like José with a dream and potential that’s just waiting to be tapped. We are fighting to unlock that promise, and all that holds not just for their futures, but for America’s future. That’s why we’re going to get this done.”