US President Barack Obama plans to give new thrust to a comprehensive immigration reform in the country — one that would not only address the issue of illegal immigrants but also how to attract and retain highly skilled manpower from countries like India.

At his maiden White House press meet yesterday following his re-election, Obama said he is very confident that they can get immigration reform done.

Noting that there has been bipartisan support to this effort, Obama said there is need to seize the moment.

“My expectation is, is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration. In fact, some conversations I think are already beginning to take place among senators and congressmen and my staff about what would this look like,” he said.

“When I say comprehensive immigration reform, it is very similar to the outlines of previous efforts at comprehensive immigration reform. I think it should include a continuation of the strong border security measures that we’ve taken because we have to secure our borders.

“I think it should contain serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring undocumented workers and taking advantage of them,” Obama said.

Talking about DREAM Act that would provide conditional permanent residency to certain undocumented minor immigrants, he said: “Obviously, making sure that we put into law what the first step that we’ve taken administratively dealing with the DREAM Act kids is very important as well.

“One thing that I’m very clear about is that young people who are brought here through no fault of their own, who have gone to school here, pledged allegiance to our flag, want to serve in our military, want to go to school and contribute to our society, that they shouldn’t be under the cloud of deportation, that we should give them every opportunity to earn their citizenship,” Obama noted.

And there are other components to it, he said.

“The business community continues to be concerned about getting enough high-skill workers, and I am a believer that if you’ve got a PhD in physics or computer science who wants to stay here and start a business here, we shouldn’t make it harder for him to stay here; we should try to encourage him to contribute to this society,” Obama said.

The agricultural sector obviously has very specific concerns about making sure that they’ve got a workforce that helps deliver food to tables.

“So there are going to be a bunch of components to it, but I think whatever process we have needs to make sure our border security is strong, needs to deal with employers effectively, needs to provide a pathway for the undocumented here, needs to deal with the DREAM Act kids.

And I think that’s something that we can get done,” Obama said.

(This article was published on November 15, 2012)
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