04 May 2012

Obama adamant on US immigration reform

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The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency has already received almost double the number of US visa applications for the skilled foreign worker programme in the first week than the entire first month of the previous year, a promising sign, say many, of the recovering US economy.

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President Obama has promised to pursue US immigration reform in his second term.

Then-Senator Barack Obama made reforming the US immigration system a cornerstone of his 2008 election campaign but, upon assuming the presidency, failed to do so within his first term.

The president has managed to loosen US visa restrictions for international tourists but his failure to secure the promised reform has caused some political analysts to consider immigration only second to the economy in the upcoming presidential election in November.

His likely opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has traditionally favoured a harder line on immigration but has softened his rhetoric in recent weeks in order to appeal to the growing Hispanic vote.

The Hispanic and Latino community is considered vital to both candidates if they want to win the race to the White House in November and as many of the community has significant ties to Latin America, immigration is therefore seen as the most vital issue to securing their vote.

While President Obama enjoyed a significant and comfortable majority of Hispanic votes over his then-opponent Senator John McCain, his failure to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to children of illegal immigrants who serve in the army or attend an American college, is thought to have tarnished the president's reputation among Latinos.

Mr Romney has previously said he would veto the DREAM Act if he is elected president, a move which proved unpopular among Hispanic voters at the time. However, prominent Republican, and Latino, Senator Marco Rubio, who is among the favourites to be Mr Romney's vice presidential nominee, has proposed his own, Republican alternative, to the Democratic DREAM Act, which would offer children of illegal immigrants the chance to earn a non-immigrant US visa, many feel the Hispanic vote is much more up for grabs than previously thought.

However, in an attempt to strengthen his hold over the Hispanic community, President Obama has vowed to secure the comprehensive reform in his second term as president.

Speaking at a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House, the president said he had unfinished business, particularly immigration legislation.

"Of course there's still plenty of unfinished business, including fixing our broken immigration system. It's long past the time that we unleash the promise of all our young people and make the DREAM Act a reality."

The president has previously blamed Republican obstinacy in the House of Representatives, where the Democratic Party is in the minority, for failing to secure the reform before now but Republicans in turn point to the fact the Democratic Party held the majority both in the House and the Senate for the first two years of President Obama's first term.

President Obama refused to accept defeat over the issue and pledged to carry on working towards his promises.

"'No' is not an option, I want to sign the DREAM Act into law. I've got all the pens ready and I'm willing to work with anybody who's serious to get this done and to achieve bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that solves this challenge once and for all."


The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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