Immigration a Footnote in State of the Union Speech


In the 2015 State of the Union Address, President Obama surprisingly sounding as if the Democratic Party had been victorious in the midterm congressional elections challenged the nation to moved forward and build on the nation's economic recovery for a better future

As Kit Johnson has blogged, immigration was mentioned in the speech briefly, with a veiled threat to veto  ("refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix" will be subject to a veto) any efforts to put a halt to the administration's executive actions on immigration and a recognition of the human impacts of immigration and immigration enforcement:

"Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants."


Some observers have criticized the attendance of one of the Obama's guests at the State of the Union Address.  As previously posted on ImmigrationProf blog, Ana Zamora, a recipent of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama.  Because she has siblings who are U.S. citizens, her parents -- a small business owner and a construction worker -- are among the millions of people who are potentially eligible for the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program announced last November. Zamora plans on going after a masters degree in business administration while helping to mentor students in situations just like hers.  Zamora's presence at the State of the Union Address is a real life symbol of the human impact of the President's executive actions on immigration.

In the Republican response to the President's address, Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who has advocated making English the national language, steered clear of immigration. Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) — who supports comprehensive immigration reform — was tapped to deliver the Ernst's speech in Spanish. While Ernst did not mention immigration, Curbelo's version of Ernst's speech called for “securing the border and modernizing our legal immigration system.”

In contrast to the downplaying of immigration by the President and teh Republican responses , during the official Tea Party Express State of the Union response, Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL) played into age-old nativist fears and suggested that undocumented immigrants were to blame for the plight of unemployed Americans.  At the same time, he embraced legal immigration.  Clawson, who seemed to talk in more detail about his Purdue college basketball team than any of the substantive issues he mentioned, made a brief pitch in Spanish to Latino voters, including a call for increased border enforcement.

This post originally appeared on ImmigrationProf Blog. © Copyright 2004-2015 by Law Professor Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Kevin R. Johnson

Kevin R. Johnson is Dean, Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law, and Professor of Chicana/o Studies. He joined the UC Davis law faculty in 1989 and was named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in 1998. Johnson became Dean in 2008. He has taught a wide array of classes, including immigration law, civil procedure, complex litigation, Latinos and Latinas and the law, and Critical Race Theory. In 1993, he was the recipient of the law school's Distinguished Teaching Award.

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