Benjy Sarlin watched Obama’s address with “hundreds of immigrant day laborers, domestic workers, hotel workers, many of them undocumented”. The reaction was more complex than you might imagine:
Obama received cheers and whoops as he announced that “the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.” But they quickly turned to boos, hisses, and even a “Shame on you!” as he pivoted to tougher border security.
There were more discontented murmurs as he said undocumented immigrants need to go “to the back of the line” behind legal immigrants to obtain a green card, a system many fear may be too hopelessly damaged to ever make them permanent residents. … The immigrants in the room were well aware that the current reform push is likely the best chance they’ll have, short term or long term, to secure a path to citizenship, or at least legal status that would allow them to work in the open. … “It’s going to happen soon, but we have no idea exactly what it is that’s going to happen,” Martin Unzueta, a labor organizer for immigrant workers in Chicago, told TPM. “Obama’s speech hasn’t changed in ten years, it’s the same speech Bush gave to us.”
He talks to Jose Antonio Vargas, whose testimony today before the Senate is featured in the above video:
Everyone wanted him to emphasize specific points for his big speech – the record number of deportations under Obama, the importance of legalizing low skill workers, including new labor protections for immigrants workers. “I have 200 people saying you have to include this, you have to include this!” he told one worker. “I have 800 words!” Vargas said his goal was “to be as aggressively respectful as possible” despite any urges to the contrary.