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Obama calls for immigration reform on Texas-Mexico border

President Barack Obama called for immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, in a speech in El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday. It was Obama’s first trip to the border as president.

Obama said the lack of progress on immigration reform occurred despite work from people on both sides of the aisle.

“We’ve seen leaders of both parties who try to work on this issue, but then their efforts fell prey to the usual Washington games,” Obama said. “And all the while, we’ve seen the mounting consequences of decades of inaction.”

Obama said that Republicans have been looking to “move the goal posts” on securing the border.

“They wanted a fence,” Obama said. “Well the fence is now basically complete.”

“We’re here at the border because we also recognize that being a nation of laws goes hand in hand with being a nation of immigrants,” Obama said in his address at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso.

Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican in the New Mexico delegation, said before Obama’s speech that the president should have met with constituents in border communities in New Mexico.

“We cannot possibly address immigration without first facing our border security problems,” Pearce said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the President missed an opportunity to hear from my constituents about the need for serious measures.”

Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, said that he supported former President George W. Bush’s call for immigration reform and praised Obama for bringing it up again.

“Comprehensive immigration legislation is necessary to fix our broken borders and advance the educational and economic progress of the country,” Udall said in a statement. “I hope that the president’s speech is just the beginning of a bipartisan effort to pass real reform.”

Sen. Jeff Bingaman also called for immigration reform.

“Obviously, we must make security a centerpiece of comprehensive immigration reform,” Bingaman said. “But I do believe Congress needs to finally find a way to create a more thoughtful immigration system that works for our economy.”

After being “encouraged” by Obama’s speech, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights called for Obama to change its focus “on a costly, enforcement-only model.”

“Our national security, while critical, should never come at the expense of civil and human rights,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights. “At the very least, we need more transparency, accountability and oversight to prevent the border region from becoming a Constitution-free zone.”

Any sort of immigration reform seems unlikely over the next two years. The House of Representatives is controlled by a Republican majority, while the Senate has a Democratic majority. The two chambers have been unable to agree on a number of high-profile issues.

Watch the speech:

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