Obama Embraces Reform Plan That Would Help Immigrant Students

January 29, 2013

In a speech on Tuesday, President Obama embraced many parts of a recent bipartisan immigration-reform plan from a group of senators, including a reprieve for some students who are in the United States illegally and help for foreign-born alumni of American colleges who want to stay.

Mr. Obama's remarks came just a day after the senators, known as the "Gang of Eight," published their plan on immigration reform. But if debates drag on in Congress, the president said, he would push his own bill and insist on an immediate vote.

"At this moment it looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon," Mr. Obama said. "And that's very encouraging."

Mr. Obama asked for "common-sense immigration reform," including creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and making it easier for some foreign-born graduates to remain in the country to work—recommendations that were also found in the senators' plan.

Both proposals would encourage foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay in the country by granting them green cards upon graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

"If you're a foreign student who wants to pursue a career in science or technology ... we should help you do that here, because if you succeed, you'll create American businesses. And American jobs," Mr. Obama said. "You'll help us grow our economy, you'll help us strengthen our middle class."

The proposals also seek to help children brought to the United States illegally, known as "dreamers," who would be eligible for earned citizenship.

"By going to college or serving honorably in the armed forces for at least two years, these children should be given an expedited opportunity to earn their citizenship," Mr. Obama's proposal states.

The earned path to citizenship would require illegal immigrants to pay taxes and a penalty, pass background checks, and learn English before they could move to the back of the line, behind immigrants who came to the country legally.