With the 2012 presidential campaign kicking into gear, President Obama has begun to focus on immigration reform, something he promised voters they would see in the first year of his presidency.
Standing along the U.S.-Mexico border, the president said the area is now more secure than ever and argued that now is the time to reform the nation's immigration laws.
"What we really need to do is to keep up the fight to pass genuine reform," said Obama, adding that the border is now more secure than ever. "That's the solution to this problem. That's what I'm committed to doing."
The president's immigration reform proposal includes:
- Holding businesses that exploit undocumented workers accountable.
- Streamlining the nation's process of legal immigration.
- Requiring immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally to take responsibility.
"They broke the law. They've got to pay their taxes. They've got to pay a fine, and they've got to learn English," Obama said.
"And they've got to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they get in line for legalization. That's not too much to ask," he continued.
The president's strategy is to rally public support for his plan, putting more pressure on Congress where, at least among Republicans, there are no plans to tackle immigration. GOP lawmakers say they're focused on cutting federal spending instead.
"The president will have to present a plan that takes amnesty off the table and focuses instead on making a real commitment to border and internal security," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
To counter concerns that illegal immigrants are a drain on public resources, Obama argues reform will help the economy grow by:
- Bringing illegal immigrants out from an underground economy.
- Raising wages for the middle class.
- Spurring innovation among immigrants who attend American colleges.
"When you have someone that's brought in and working under conditions - not being paid their regular wages or overtime or have any of the safety and protections -- that obviously disadvantages that other business that is playing by the rules," Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told CBN News.
"So, we want to get to the root of that cause and eliminate it," Solis said.
The president, who won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, is once more trying to reinvigorate the group, an ever growing and influential part of the American electorate that's growing impatient.
Meanwhile, the jobless rate continues to haunt the president. Despite bailouts and stimulus packages, unemployment has hovered around 9 percent for three years.