Over the past four years, the President spoke consistently about an immigration system that reflects the nation's values, a temporary worker program, and border enforcement measures. "America's immigration system is also outdated - unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country," the President stated in his 2005 address.
Last year, President Bush pressed Congress to reach an agreement on immigration policy. "Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate, so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law," he said.
This year, the President failed to press Congress to address immigration, and side-stepped the issue expressing that it is, "complicated, but can be resolved." This tacit observation by the outgoing President is surely a message for the next administration since it will have to lead the policy discourse on this critical domestic concern, a perspective shared with some members of Congress.
As he also pointedly remarked during his address, "Yet, history will record that amid our differences, we acted with purpose." Unfortunately, the White House and Congressional leaders did not hammer out clear, rationale or long-term solutions. Instead, an increasing number of punitive and enforcement-focused measures were at the core of the Bush Administration's immigration principles.
Looking Ahead: A "Sensible and Humane" Approach Long Overdue
This year, and for the first time, the President specified support for a "sensible and humane" way to address the situation of immigrants living and working in the U.S. without employment authorization. Looking ahead, Congressional leaders will need to arrive at the bipartisan negotiating table with clarity and vision that helps bring the immigration discourse to a fruitful conclusion and which ultimately leads to sensible policies and humane legislation.