The Speech – Blogs React

The day of Obama’s immigration speech, Immigration Reform for America posted an article written by Deepak Bhargava. In the article, Bhargava cites a survey that claims 78% of Americans are for comprehensive immigration reform. Despite America’s eagerness, it is made clear that the reform has hit a major snag. Playing off Obama’s frustrations mentioned in his speech, the blogger makes it clear that intense party politics has crippled any reform. Republicans are portrayed as having a self interested agenda, trying to strike against Obama rather than find solutions. The author then cites the Arizona immigration law to support his claim that Republicans are to blame.

On the other side of the spectrum, conservative blogger Jena McNeill has a different opinion. The blogger agreed that immigration policy needs reform, but she strongly disagrees with Obama’s policy. McNeill viewed Obama’s speech as a call for mass amnesty which was related to the DREAM act. She claimed that the increased border security was just a charade that comes with mass amnesty. The article suggested that increased security coupled with strong discouragement of illegal immigration was the key.

An editorial blog featured on The Christian Science Monitor also featured skepticism of Obama’s policy views. Clayton Jones pondered as to why the president was so proud of his increased border security if he also admitted that securing the border was impossible. The administration’s new policy of targeting businesses also raised flags as it was pointed out that this also leads to severe poverty and joblessness of those immigrants. Other issues included vagueness of how the immigrants would settle their debts for breaking the law.

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Shift in Focus

Along with border security and criminal deportation, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency also investigates workplace violations. These include harboring illegal immigrants (or failing to verify their residency status) and mistreatment of workers. This strategy has arisen in a wave of audits of companies with questionable hiring practices. Along with the general outline of the ICE plan, their website includes up to date news feeds of worksite violations. This allows citizens to personally view the progress of this strategy. One doesn’t have to take the Feds’ word for it; the mainstream media has noticed some changes as well.

The New York Times reported on an incident in Washington in which Gebbers Farms was required to fire about 500 undocumented workers. In addition to this story, the article focuses on a general shift in immigration strategy of the Obama administration. The I-9 audits were reported to be promising because it allows more companies to be investigated than traditional raids. The discontent of those businesses that have no way to fill the positions of the undocumented workers was mentioned along with the specific incidence of the Gebbers employees.

A more critical view towards this new worksite enforcement strategy is offered by the Washington Post.  The post cites experts who claim that the I-9 employee verification system is unreliable.  This article quotes ICE investigation data and arrest statistics in the past year. Instances of small businesses being investigated while having no undocumented workers are pointed out by the Post. Even former ICE officials expressed their doubts of the strategy without sufficient penalties for businesses. The article almost exclusively provides those expert opinions that are critical of the strategy.

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The Speech

Obama gave a speech on immigration reform at the University of America in Washington D.C. Within the speech the president outlined broken policies such as legal immigration bureaucracy, immigration enforcement, and amnesty of the current illegal population. The president was careful to cater to both sides of immigration arguments as he stated that the border was more secure than it has ever been while also outlining strategies that targeted the promotion of illegal immigration. He stressed the fact that employer responsibility is crucial in fighting illegal immigration. His concerns were not only that questionable hiring practices promoted illegal immigration, but it also takes advantage of the workers.

Obama supported the amnesty of current immigrants that currently live in the U.S. The DREAM act was mentioned as a potential way to introduce illegal immigrants into citizenship. After unfolding his different approaches to immigration, the president left the ball in the court of opposing Republicans. He stressed that bipartisan support is crucial and that the country was founded on diversity.

For those who would rather read it, a transcript of his speech can be found here.

A Wall Street Journal article was written on the speech, framing the issue as a red vs. blue struggle. Despite Obama’s assertions that the efforts at the border have been tripled, a spokeswoman for McCain was quoted in the article stating that support would not come until the border security was taken care of. Further attention was given to the possibility that the partisan struggle could win Obama future support amongst Hispanic citizens.

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Virtual Fence in the Media

The New York Times’ Randal Archibald reported that the government planned to cut significant pieces of funding for the “virtual fence” program. The budget was a significant topic in the article as an October budget cut reduced funding by nearly $200 million and stimulus money was siphoned into seemingly more important areas of border protection. The story pointed out the programs failure to keep to the projected schedule and Boeing’s silence in regard to its participation in the project. The Government Accountability Office’s disappointment with the virtual fence was quoted through Richard Stana (director of homeland security and justice issues for the office) stated that the program was over hyped yet its deliverance has been underwhelming.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that the secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, froze funding for the fence 2 days before the GAO report was to be released. The president of the national boarder council, T. J. Bonner was pleased with the decision stating that the fence was a “failure.” The article offers the opinion of someone other than a government related source, a political science professor at Villanova. Catherine Wilson suggested that the funding freeze was not only due to budget issues, but also to recent violence at the border. This was the only mention of a broader context outside of budget issues and Boeing faults.

This issue seems to have a general consensus of experts that have little faith in the “virtual fence.” Both articles included quotations from members of the DHS or CBP who either spoke in neutral terms or even suggested altering their strategy of border protection. Most news sources were government sources.

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“Virtual Fence”/Government Accountability Office

The Secure Border Initiative was passed in 2005 and was designed to establish secure borders between Mexico and the United States. Information regarding the SBI can found here. The SBI was intended to fund border patrol staffing increases, build infrastructure, remove illegal immigrants within the country, and fund a new string of technological censors to help track immigrants moving across the border. The last objective was dubbed the “virtual fence” by the media and is called SBInet by the department of Customs and Border Protection.

The Government Accountability Office is a government agency in charge of providing investigative information for Congress. They review government agencies and programs and check for illegal practices or inefficient spending. The GAO’s latest target has been the SBInet program, or the “virtual fence.” A 63 page report was released on November 6, and there were various faults found in the virtual fence progress.

A highlight of the report cited many issues with the program, especially with the contractor in charge of building the fence, Boeing. The report states that Boeing has not been meeting program deadlines and has also gone over the given budget. In addition, insufficient information about the progress of the fence was given to the Department of Homeland Security from the contractor. This contributed to the inability for the DHS to accurately measure the progress and cost of the project.

The Washington Times reported on the document released by the GAO and previous SBInet progressions. The point was raised that this was not the first time that the government accountability office had stated its concerns over the virtual fence program. The article stated that the initial completion date for the fence was 2009 while the GAO prediction was 2016. It was in the wake of these previous alerts that Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, issued the call for the review of the program in January. Boeing Co. was briefly quoted in the article, stating that it had made “significant progress” in attempts to follow the guidelines supplied by the DHS.

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A Dream Deferred

Such a controversial bill such as the DREAM act is sure to attract the attention of the blogosphere. Blogs such as A Dream Deferred or Dream Act Texas keep people up to date with the latest happenings with the act. The coverage offered by these pro-DREAM blogs is more geared to arousing support than to providing objective information. A Dream Deferred offers promotional videos and links to personal accounts of immigrant discrimination. Dream Act Texas is even more aggressive in its campaign. The blog identifies DREAM opponents along with their pictures, asking supporters to contact and petition them to support the act. This makes up the majority of stories on the site along with news of those supporting the act. These pro-DREAM sources are mostly from the administration and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano.

The White House weighs in as well in its own blog: The blog article framed the DREAM act as a bipartisan effort that has limitations on who it grants amnesty to (students). The blog also goes into detail of all members of the administration who are working to help get the act passed.

The conservative blog response can be seen through In the “Protect America” column, Blogger Jena McNeill felt that Harry Reid’s recent pushes for the DREAM act is due to past campaign promises. She also claims that amnesty has never been a successful practice and can even incite more illegal immigration. The attempts of the white house to frame the act as not an amnesty measure was recognized, but McNeill felt that the DREAM act is just that.

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Media DREAMing

The New York Times Magazine mentioned the DREAM act in its in depth story of an undocumented UCLA student named Leslie. The article was a classic example of episodic framing as Leslie’s life consumed the majority of the story. Her daily life was explained in detail along with her problems as an undocumented college student. The fact that California allowed her to pay In-State tuition was cited as the reason for her opportunity to even attend. The article then explained how the DREAM act could extend this opportunity to other undocumented youth.

Fox News portrayed the DREAM act as an appealing bill for both political parties, but their coverage focused on the red vs. blue animosity that led to the downfall of the bill. The article portrays Republicans not as opponents of the bill, but as a group who refuses to play politics with the DREAM act tied to the defense bill. Personal accounts of students hoping for a positive result for the bill ended the story on a similar note of the Times’ article.

Napolitano’s position is indicated in the Miami Herald. The secretary indicates that the DREAM act is a move in the right direction. She stresses that it would actually help efforts to step up immigration enforcement by taking those non dangerous immigrants out of the scope of immigration officers. The article suggests that Napolitano was trying to remove the DREAM act from the stigma as being an amnesty act as opposed to an act that would benefit border security. The inability for the act to gain success is attributed to republican senator George LeMieux who has shifted reform focus on border security.

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