Obama Reignites Immigration Debate Along U.S.-Mexico Border

President Barack Obama calls on Congress to tackle immigration reform during a speech near the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.
Lawrence Jackson
By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
May 10, 2011

President Barack Obama reignited the debate in favor of immigration reform during a speech he gave near an international border crossing in El Paso, Texas. The president argued it was time to move beyond border security.

One of the main points Obama stressed was that great progress has been made in securing the border. And the work could be seen in plain sight.

Border Patrol officers in SUVs and on horseback patrolled the perimeter of the Chamizal National Memorial Park Tuesday before President Obama's speech. On the Mexican side, federal police vehicles stood guard near the international boundary.

The President also touted a tripling of intelligence agents on the border and an increase in the seizures of drugs, weapons and cash.

“The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents – more than twice as many as there were in 2004,” Obama said.

Barquin Aguirre agreed it's getting harder to cross the border illegally. He was recently deported from Seattle to Ciudad Juarez. He says both countries share a responsibility in fixing what the president called a broken system.

"The easiest and practical thing to do is to give permits," Aguirre said, in Spanish, from Juarez. "It would be only for work. I would come and go. It would be more just."

Aguirre said Mexico must also strengthen it's own economy so that there are more jobs for Mexicans. He said the easiest solution is for the United States to create a temporary worker program, which was also among the solutions Obama offered for the nation's immigration problems.

The president also called for passage of the Dream Act and a path to legalization for illegal immigrants.

Republicans have already criticized the speech. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told the Associated Press that lawmakers need to "do things that actually produce some progress and results."