Obama Brings Personal Stories to Forefront of Immigration Fight

President gives examples of U.S. immigration policy blocking citizenship to deserving applicants.
31:28 | 06/11/13

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Transcript for Obama Brings Personal Stories to Forefront of Immigration Fight
This is a special report from ABC news. Dan -- -- -- -- with the CBC news digital special report. President Obama is hosting a coalition of Latino business labor and religious leaders today at the White House you can see. Assembling there on this podium right behind the presidential seal. The events carefully timed as the senate plans to vote this afternoon to bring immigration bill issue to the floor for its first vote. Which will move the immigration debate forward. President's about to make his way in there -- the group standing behind him on risers the president let's listen in now. My total over booming. -- My name -- told -- beluga me. Damaging. I was eight years old. -- -- Indian innings team. At fourteen. I was brought from Africa to you laugh so live -- and -- At 21. I graduated with a chemical engineering degree. And today. That dream still lives in the back of my constant. Where my diploma waits for immigration reform. I never set out to devote myself completely. To advocating for immigration reform. Noted I imagine. That out of that -- Of my darkest secret. -- -- -- -- -- -- In 2006. My father passed away in Nigeria. Too far for -- final kiss good night. And daring that at any moment I could be torn away from my family. I stand here a ten day. As a -- -- results. Of the fervent prayers of my father. And bold action of the president. Instead of living and the -- And well below. My abilities. I have the privilege. -- spending 1980s. Advocating. For immigration reform. And supporting efforts. To -- she that more perfect union. That we -- desire that we all decide. Today I am hopeful. And humbled. To present the president at the United States. -- morning everybody. Welcome to the White House it is a pleasure to have so many distinguished Americans. Today from so many different walks of life. We've got Democrats and Republicans. You've got labor and business leaders up on stage we have law enforcement and clergy. Americans who don't. See eye -- eye on every issue in fact in some cases Nazis -- just about any issue. But who are today standing united in support of the legislation that is front and center. In congress this week a bipartisan bill to fix our broken immigration system. And I have to say -- please give told another round of applause. The -- lot of courage to do what so little did. To step out of the shadows to share her story. And hope that despite the risks she could make a difference. But toy figures represented so -- dreamers. Out there who have. Worked so hard and I've had a chance to meet so many of them who been willing to give a face to -- documented. And have inspired a movement across. America. And with -- each step they reminded us time and again. What this debate is all about this is not an abstract debate. This is about incredible. Young people who understand themselves to be Americans who. Have done everything right. But have still been hampered in achieving their American dream. And they remind us that were a nation of immigrants. Throughout our history the promise we found in those who come from every corner of the -- Has always been one of our greatest strengths. It's kept our workforce vibrant. In dynamic. It's kept our business is on the cutting edge. It's helped build the greatest economic engine of the world has ever known what I speak to other world leaders one of the biggest advantages we had. Economically. Is our demographics were constantly replenishing ourselves. -- of talent from all across the globe. The -- country can match that history. And what was true. Years ago is this still true today -- -- and over that. They're -- got a -- -- society. -- -- You know it in recent years one in four. Of America's -- small business owners were immigrants. One in four high tech startups in America. We're founded. By immigrants. 40%. Of fortune 500 companies were started. My first or second generation Americans think about that. Almost half. From fortune 500 companies. When they were started were started by. First -- second generation immigrants so so immigration isn't just part of our national character it is a driving force. In our economy that creates jobs and prosperity. For all of our citizens. Here's -- -- over the past two decades our immigration system hasn't kept pace. With -- changing times. And it hasn't matched up -- our most cherished values. Right now our immigration system invites the best and brightest from all of the world. To come and study at our top universities and then once they finish what they've gotten the training. They need to build a new invention or create -- new business. Our system too often don't go back wrong. So that other countries can reap the benefits the new jobs new businesses the new industries that's not Smart. That's the broken system we have today. Right now army -- system keeps families apart for years at a time. Even for folks through. Technically under the legal immigration system. Should be eligible. To become citizens but it is so long and so cumbersome. So Byzantine. That. Families -- the being separated for years. Because of a backlog of visas people who came here -- poor rating to give. If or -- earned their place America and -- waiting for years to join their loved ones. Here in the United States it's not right. But that's the broken system we have today. Right now our immigration system has no credible way of dealing with the eleven million men and women -- -- in this country be legal. And yes they broke the rules they didn't wait their turn. They shouldn't be let off -- they shouldn't be allowed to game the system but at the same time the vast majority of these individuals are looking for any trouble they're just looking to provide. For their families contribute to their communities. There are neighbors. We know -- kids. Too often they're forced to do. What they do in a shadow economy -- shady importers can exploit them by paying less the minimum wage making them work without overtime not giving them any benefits. That pushes down standards for all workers it's bad for everybody. Because all the businesses that do play by the rules that hire people legally the pay them fairly. There at a competitive disadvantage. American workers and -- being at a competitive disadvantage. It's not fair but that's the broken system that we have today. Now over the past four years we've tried to patch up some of the worst cracks in the system. We may border security a top priority today we have twice as many Border Patrol agents as we did in 2004. We have more boots on the ground along our southern border than at any time in our history. And in part by using technology more effectively. Illegal crossings. Are near their lowest level in decades. We focus our enforcement efforts on criminals who are here illegally and were endangering our communities and today deportation of criminals. Is at its highest level ever. And having put border security in place. Have refocused. On. Those who could do our communities -- We are also then took up because the dreamers. Young people like -- who were brought to this country's children and we said that if you're able to meet some basic criteria like pursuing a higher education. Then we'll consider offering you the chance to come out the shadows so you can continue to work here in study or contribute to our community's legal. So so my administration has done what we cannot -- -- We've got members of my administration here who've done outstanding work over the past few years. To try to. Close up some of the gaps that exist in the system but. The system still broken. -- -- truly deal with this issue congress needs to act. And that moment is now. This week the senate -- consider. They common sense bipartisan bill that is the best chance we've had in years to fix our broken immigration system. -- will build on what we've done and continued to strengthen our borders. You'll make sure the businesses and workers are all playing by the same set of rules. And includes tough penalties. For those who don't. It's fair for middle class families by making sure that those. -- brought into the system pay their fair share in taxes and for service. And it's fair for those who try to immigrate legally. By stopping those who try to skip the line it's the right thing to do. This bill isn't perfect it's a compromise. And going forward nobody's gonna get everything that they want. Not Democrats not Republicans. Not me. But this is a bill that's largely consistent. With the principles that -- and the people on the stage. Have laid out. For common sense reform. First ball if passed this bill would be. The biggest commitment to border security -- our nation's history that would put another six point five billion dollars on top of what worries spending. Towards stronger smarter security along our borders. It would increase criminal penalties against smugglers and traffickers. You would finally give. Every importer a reliable way to check. That every person they're hiring is here -- And or hold employers more accountable if they knowingly. Hire undocumented workers. -- it strengthens border security. But also enforcement. Within our borders. I know there's lot of talk right now about border security so let me repeat today illegal crossings are. Near -- lowest level in decades and if passed. The senate bill as currently written and his hit -- floor. -- put in place the toughest border enforcement plan that America has ever sink. It's nobody's taking border enforcement like. As part of this bill. Number two this bill would provide a path away. Two earned citizenship. For the eleven million individuals were in this country illegally. So that path -- way is Parker it's. You've got to pass background checks you've got to learn English you gotta pay taxes and a penalty. And then you gotta go to the back of the line behind everybody who's done things the right way and that. Try to come here legally so this won't be a quick process. It'll take at least thirteen years before the vast majority of these individuals are able to even apply for citizenship. There is no cakewalk. -- the only way we can make sure that everyone who's here is playing by the same rules us. Ordinary families pay in taxes and give their own health insurance. -- -- for immigration reform -- work. You must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship. We're -- -- play by the same rules you gotta give people a sense of certainty that they go through all -- sacrifices. Do all of us that there's. For -- to the Verizon. The opportunity. Not a guarantee but the opportunity. To be part. Of this American family and by the way a majority of Americans. Support this idea. Number three this bill would modernize the legal immigration system. Stood alongside training American workers for the jobs of tomorrow were also attracting the highly skilled out of -- and engineers. From around the world who will ultimately grow our -- And this bill would help make sure that our people don't have to wait years before their loved ones. Are able to join them here in America. So that's what immigration reform looks like. Smarter enforcement. A pathway to earned citizenship. Improvements -- -- legal system. They're all common sense steps. They've got bipartisan support. They've got the support of a broad cross section. Of leaders. From every walk -- life. So there's no reason congress can't get this done by the end of the -- Remember the process that led to this bill was open and inclusive for months the bipartisan gang abate. Looked at every issue. Reconcile competing ideas. Built a compromise that works. Then the Judiciary Committee. Held numerous errors more than a hundred men amendments were added that often -- bipartisan support. And the good news is every day that goes by more and more Republicans and Democrats are. Coming out to support this common sense immigration reform. And I'm sure the bill won't goats -- a few more changes. In the weeks to come but. This much is clear if you genuinely believe we need to fix our broken immigration system. There's no good reason to stand in the way of this bill. Lot of people Democrats and Republicans have done a lot of good work on this bill. So if you're serious about actually fixing the system. -- This is the vehicle -- don't. Just -- not serious about evicted if you think that. A broken systems the best America can do that I guess might make sense to try to. Block it. But if -- actually serious and sincere. About. Fixing a broken system. This is the vehicle to do and now's the time to get about there's no good reason to play procedural games. Or engage in obstruction. Just to block the best chance we've had in years to address this problem in a way that's fair to middle class families to business owners. To legal immigrants. And there's no good reasons undo the progress we've argument especially when it comes to extreme steps like. Stripping protections from dreamers that my administration's provide. Or asking law enforcement to treat them the same way they treat violent criminals. That's not who we are. We ought to America to do better. We -- to the dreamers to do back. We ought to the young people. Like Dolan and and Diego Sanchez who's who's with us here today. -- -- Right here. Vehicle came here from Argentina -- his parents when he was just a kid. And brought up American was -- -- -- where it went to school is where -- made friends as where he built a life. US Diego and they'll tell you feels American in every -- except one. On -- In high school Diego found out that he was -- -- think about that. But also purity dealing with a high schools. And suddenly -- man. Sony had done everything right stayed out of trouble excelled in class contributed to this community. -- hopeful about his future and suddenly. He finds out. He's got -- live in fear of deportation. Watching his his friends get their licenses knowing he couldn't get one. Seeing as classmates apply for summer jobs. Knowing he can do that either. When -- heard that we were gonna offer a chance for folks like him to emerge from the shadows he went and signed up. All they want to -- said it was a chance to live a normal life and to contribute to the country Iowa. And Diego this year was approved for deferred action. -- a few weeks ago he graduated from saint Thomas University where he was student body president and student of the year. Some so now is. Set his sights higher. Master's degree -- law school. Sword and pursue a career in public policy. Help America shape its future. Why would we want to do the right thing by -- What rationale. Is are out there. That one want to make sure. -- Ortiz has dreams because if he does. That helps us all achieve -- groups. On the weeks to come. You'll hear some opponents of immigration reform try to gin up fear and create division and strip. The same old rumors and untruths that we've heard before. And when that happens. -- want to think about total want to think about Diego. And I want to think by -- parents and your own grandparents -- great grandparents. All the men and women and children. Who came here. The notion that somehow those who came through Ellis Island. They had all their papers right. -- -- checked every box and follow procedure is. As they were -- on that boat. They were looking for a better life. There's like these friends. -- wanna earn their way into the American story. If you're on the stand with them -- and -- -- -- -- all these outstanding leaders up here. Then that now's the time make -- -- -- You need to call and email and tweak your senators and tell them don't kick this problem down the world. Come together work together. Do your job. Not only to fix a broken immigration system once and for all. But to leave something better. For all the generations to come. To make sure we continue to be a nation of laws and a nation of Memphis. Do right but. Thanks -- Lester got left -- -- -- -- Paxson and very personal appeal. For immigration reform just as the -- is about to take out its first vote. The bill that was -- from the gang of eighths about a months of work in a committee. That will be coming to the floor this afternoon in the senate the president playing up the fact that not everyone will get what they want in the immigration. Reform bill but in fact. Very much determined to see the passage of that bill -- eleven million people that could be seeking a path to citizenship here in the united. States the president saying that the path will be in his words no cakewalk. And that concerns of border security are addressed in -- reform bill that pathway to citizenship has also address and reform bill but that it is truly. A bipartisan effort. And a -- revitalized energy behind. This goal that the White House has set now since the very beginning since his first. Term I want to bring in infusions political editor Jordan Fabian to discuss this Jordan thanks for being with us are appreciated. Thank you want to talk a little bit about first what stood out to you. In that speech. Well politically you have to think about. That of president Obama's warnings are Republican -- not pushed too far border security. Really directed a lot of his rhetoric defending the gang of -- bill is the biggest border security -- in the US history. And as you know -- Republican senators are preparing to propose serious changes in the bill that Democrats think they -- in danger for passing the senate. So that sets up some clear markers as this debate continues. And the second thing is gives his effort to try to put a human face on this issue. Taking. DREAM Act students young people who. Don't have that aren't in the country illegally putting them on stage of the White House really putting a human face on the immigration issue. The I want to ask you about that your biggest oftentimes we talk about the fact that there are the eleven million this this this almost incomprehensible amount. Of the people I -- eleven million obviously is a huge number by any standards. And yet the same time when the president -- had his introduction today and then when he was also assuring -- personal stories. As you say it really does kind of a put a face on how this legislation would have a direct impact on people has that been an effective approach so far because the White House. Has attempted to make that it's ammo. Essentially. Absolutely and just a few weeks ago he did a similar. Event where he met with young. Undocumented immigrants or or family members of undocumented immigrants at the White House it's hard to say whether it's been -- -- -- -- bill is just reaching the floor now mean you could say it's is certainly raise awareness of immigration issues Obama. Saying in these are your neighbors these -- -- These -- your friends there in neighborhoods all across the country there. For most -- for young people brought here is young. -- you know babies together Americans so. I think -- you look at the polls -- a majority of Americans now support a path to citizenship. For undocumented immigrants if it comes with the -- security measures the type -- which are in the senate bill so you ought to see whether his strategy and approach. Pays off when congress votes on this over the summer you point out the fact that -- security has been a key concern for a lot of Republicans -- in the house and in the senate. What does that the concerned because -- -- -- obviously needed for passage of this bill. What is the concern for those Democrats or independents. That may not be on board with this latest form. Wolf we're talking about border security Republicans want to strengthen. What's called the trigger in the senate in this is that. The mechanism that you need to reach a certain level of border security in order to allow a document -- -- immigrants get green cards Democrats are afraid that if those. -- provisions. Become -- restricts too harsh. That. Those immigrants will be stuck in the state of limbo sort of second class citizenship -- they won't be able to progress to become a green card holders and then -- so. That'll be a debate to watch. On the floor senator cornyn. As you may have heard has as a big amendment that should be on the floor in the next couple weeks. -- you've been around that. Right exactly and I know bipartisanship oftentimes in Washington DC -- sort of seen -- that four letter word com but this in fact could be the minute the strong example that we've seen. For both sides calm and in both houses and both chambers. I'm putting together a little bit and has the president had pointed out saying that nobody is going to get everything they want from this bill does -- Elicit some kind of hope that in fact we could see something happen. Well if you look at the broad range of issues that Obama wants -- -- -- -- second term tax reform gun control. Immigration -- -- at the city immigration has the best chance of passing but. It's still there's a long way to go I think is a pretty good chance -- -- pass the senate I think it's looking like they're sixty votes there from. From our reporting but the house is a much different -- it's controlled by the Republicans and there really is not a large appetite on the Republican side. For -- pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants so that -- speaker Boehner was a tough choice does he. Push a -- ahead with majorities Republicans opposing it. Or does he take up a different set of bills that doesn't include a pathway to citizenship but -- will certainly not be. Acceptable to Democrats so it of to really be a shame to see. How this develops. The next couple months you actually achieve that I've heard of it because I do want to play a clip odds and ABC news exclusive interview that George Stephanopoulos did. Well on Good Morning America with house speaker John Boehner and -- I wanna get your thoughts on what he said this. -- immigration it's on the senate floor this week can you support the senate bill. I've got real concerns about the senate bill especially in the area of border security. In internal enforcement of the system. I'm concerned that -- doesn't go far enough if it goes farther you prepared. To sign on to a bill that has a clear path to citizenship. For this are now in the country illegally -- what I've tried to do over the course of the last six months is -- -- environment. In the house where members from both parties can continue to work together. And I would expect to -- a -- -- to the right before the senators. -- journal ask you about that how strongly is that statement -- a resonate -- house. -- gainers being very cautious there NN you know he really has the balance I think news -- -- GOP officials who wanna see this -- immigration until it gets on vs the concerns of the conservative members of -- caucus who her. Vehemently against it so the guy you go elsewhere energy -- not ruling out bringing up a bill that doesn't have a majority of Republicans by. He of course you would not prefer to do that so -- dinners are less choice and they can. It again. You know we have to see once the house takes this up in the end of this month right exactly of course those first votes six -- this afternoon in the senate and -- before you go -- -- -- want to ask you about this because some Republicans and -- in congress say that in fact. The president could be the biggest obstacle. To this immigration reform bill passing what are your thoughts on that and why is there such strong disdain against the president and individual efforts. Well I think Dan this is -- big reason why Obama has sort of stood back from this process and sort of what the leaders in congress take control. He's he's if toxic. Among Republican circles -- cruises the Republican senator from Texas. Is when he said that remark that you just quoted so. I think that Obama is pretty much -- -- -- stay in the background he's only given two or three public speeches on this and I guess you look at vaccine obamacare debated and his reputations pretty poisonous in the GO -- and so we shall wait to see how that will play out. Jordan Fabian. Fusion political director thanks for joining us for is that we certainly appreciate that -- pushing give up with the very latest. As the bill now move onto the senate for the first -- coming up this afternoon that full report will be on abcnews.com. For now. I'm -- that's our New York with this ABC news digital special report. This has been a special report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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