Archive for July, 2010

An Aggressive Agenda of Domestic Reform

July 1, 2010

In the approximately 17 months of the Obama administration, we’ve seen sweeping domestic policy reform efforts. It started Day One (Inauguration Day) with closing the Guantanamo Bay camps. But we’ve had much larger domestic reform packages:

  • financial industry reform
  • health care reform
  • energy reform – given incredible life by the BP Oil Disaster

Energy reform is far from settled, yet today I received an email from the White House about the next biggie – immigration reform

This is no criticism, but rather a commentary. I’m glad Obama has decided to “take no prisoners”. He’s not slowing down for anything. He came into office for a four-year term determined to make the changes that we’ve all been talking about for years but didn’t have the motivation to really do anything about.

We all know people need to be better taken care of by our health care system. We all know that dirty fossil fuels are destroying our incredible natural environments and ecosystems. We’ve known these things for decades. Yet finally someone has the courage to stand up and do something about it. Not that the new policies won’t have their problems, because they will. I am of the opinion that any change is better than no change. Some might think that unwise. But I think if you at least make some change, it puts the item on everyone’s agenda and we can always tweak the policy after it’s been in place for a time and you’ve had an opportunity to see any shortcomings. But it’s important to take a step to get everyone out of their apathetic state.

The issues are less clear when it comes to immigration reform. Even though all Americans are immigrants (other than the Native American population), many people are in favor of tight controls on immigration. The thought is, “we’re here. Let’s protect what we’ve got.” Of course, if that had always been true, we might not be here and be able to say that.

It’s a challenging issue. The Statue of Liberty stands there in New York Harbor, welcoming immigrants. The Melting Pot is a critical part of our national identity. It’s very much a part of what makes America America. It’s one of our strengths – the wide array of cultural perspectives enhances our national “gene pool” and makes us more flexible and dynamic. It’s one of the reasons the entire world looks to us to be the protectors of what’s right and just, and why we are expected to have magnanimity and grace in our dealings with other peoples. It’s one of the reasons our imperialistic invasions of other countries is shameful to our American heritage. But that’s another story…

Below is the text of the letter from David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President on the topic of immigration reform that I received today:

Subject: Meeting Another Great Challenge: Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Good morning,

In a time of unprecedented challenges, President Obama has risen to meet them in unprecedented ways. And today, the President will be addressing yet another issue our nation has faced for decades — our broken immigration system. In a major speech at American University at 10:45 a.m. EDT, the President will make the clear case for comprehensive immigration reform.

The President believes that we must have a practical, common-sense approach that reflects our heritage and our history — as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. Government must be accountable for enforcing the law, businesses that seek unfair advantages over competitors must be accountable for exploiting the system, and those who break the law must be accountable as well.

But as always, the President will put it more eloquently than I can, so tune in for the speech streamed live at WhiteHouse.gov at 10:45 a.m. EDT. If you miss it, at 1:00 p.m. EDT, you can still join Cecilia Muñoz, one of the President’s closest advisors on this issue, who will be taking questions from Americans all over the country in a unique online roundtable.

The President has already signed the Recovery Act, historic reforms of our health care system, and soon the most comprehensive financial reform since the Great Depression. He has also made clear that passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation to make America the leader in the clean energy economy is an urgent need.

But the President did not come into office only to leave pressing problems for the next President. Virtually everybody in America agrees that our immigration system is broken — it is only a matter of all political sides coming to the table and mustering the political will to solve the problem. Neither of the extreme approaches — deportation of 11 million undocumented workers on the one hand, or amnesty for those that broke the law on the other — is going to work. We have to work together.

Sincerely,
David Axelrod
Senior Advisor to the President