Chicagoans react to Obama's immigration speech

July 1, 2010 (CHICAGO)

President Barack Obama offered his ideas for changing the immigration system in the United States in his first major speech on the subject since taking office.

Immigrant rights leaders were anxious to hear the president's speech Thursday morning. They are hoping he will use the speech to support comprehensive immigration reform. The president acknowledged that with the passage of the controversial law in Arizona people have expressed frustration with a system that seems fundamentally broken.

"States like Arizona have decided to take matters into their own hands. Given the levels of frustration across the country, this is understandable. But it is also ill conceived," said Obama.

"States like Arizona want to do something about it because the federal government hasn't. They shouldn't be standing in their way," said Steve Stevlic, Tea Party movement."I didn't hear anything new in this speech. I didn't hear any policies. I didn't see any legislation he wanted to propose. It almost seems like he wants to change the subject off what's going on."

Leaders representing Illinois' diverse immigrant communities gathered at Casa Michoacan Thursday to watch the president's address. Some said they wish the president would have given his speech six months ago.

"Finally, President Obama got out there with a first-rate explanation of why as a nation of immigrants we are strong," said Joshua Hoyt, Illinois Coaliton for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

"I think the speech the president made this morning is finally overdue. And his speech was not just for immigrants but for the rest of the country," said Raul Raymundo, community activist.

Leaders said they were hoping Obama would use this speech to support a moratorium on the deportation of immigrant workers.

"I believe such an indiscriminate approach would be both unwise and unfair. It would suggest to those who are thinking about coming here illegally that there would be no repercussions for such a decision. And this could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration," said Obama.

A Palestinian mother and her two daughters believed the speech was hopeful.

The mother said her husband was deported six years ago. "Immigration is not a Latino issue only. I'm Muslim. I'm Arab. I'm Palestinian. My daughter lost her father six years ago. He was deported six years ago," said Ahlam Jabara.

Obama said he supports immigration reform but he did not say how he planned to accomplish it.

"Without bipartisan support, as we have just a few years ago, we cannot solve this problem," said Obama.

"He controls the House. He controls the Senate. He has super majorities in both and can pass whatever he'd like. If there is anyone standing in his way, it's his own party," said Stevlic.

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