Under the current immigration system the original immigrant families of President Reagan and President Kennedy, who came here from Ireland, would have been jailed and deported. Patrick Kennedy and Michael Reagan were farmers with little education, no skills or family ties.
You can go through any immigrant group and find the same story over and over.
Such is the broken immigration system we have now. The 1965 act that created it is way past needing an overhaul. It is a Ford Edsel in a Ford Mustang age.
He has finally shown the steel so many of his supporters were hoping to see – and he has done it on the toughest issue he faces.
In the sixth year of his presidency, he has finally come to the conclusion that he must do what he can on his own as the GOP will never work with him.
His speech to the nation will focus on that reality.
As he said on Wednesday, “Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long. What I’m going to be laying out is things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.”
His decision to seek to legalize millions who have been here undocumented at least a decade and who have worked hard is the only compassionate thing to do.
It acknowledges a reality that anti-immigrant Americans will never acknowledge: that it is physically impossible to deport 11 million people and that just and rational laws are the only way to deal with them.
Those who declare the president is acting outside his legal remit are mistaken. Both President Reagan and President Bush used executive orders relating to undocumented immigrants and granted them rights in America. The precedent is there.
In the absence of congressional action President Obama is doing what must be done, using the legitimate powers of his office
It puts America on the side of both good policy and of the kind of compassionate governance that has been too often lacking in the past few decades as American lawmaking has atrophied in the face of open hostility between the parties.
The facts are clear. America currently has a broken immigration system and the need to reconstruct it is huge.
This is a starting point.
Millions of immigrants are caught in limbo, including tens of thousands of Irish undocumented. The cost of not legalizing them when they would be productive taxpayers and workers is enormous.
Immigration authorities are apprehending thousands of folks whose only crime is seeking a better life.
Experts say the debate on gay marriage ultimately turned on people realizing that gay people they knew in their lives deserved the same, no better or worse than anyone else.
We all know illegal immigrants. They clean your trash, work in your factories, take care of your children, prepare your food, build your buildings, and wait tables in your restaurants. They look after your sick and elderly.
If they went on strike America would stop.
It is time to shout 'Stop!' on how they are treated.
Obama will be appealing to the better angels of America’s nature with his speech tonight.
I expect he will find a positive response in this most generous of nations.