The Last Word | January 29, 2013
>>> the president went to the southwest today to deliver a major speech and we are bringing you "the last word" tonight from even further southwest, way down here in old mexico . los angeles , california, which of course used to be part of mexico until we took it by force, and then started building fences to keep mexicans out of old mexico .
>> i'm here today because the time has come.
>> right now the president is in the air.
>> for common sense .
>> he is expected to lay out his own vision.
>> outline his immigration priorities.
>> immigration reform .
>> the immigration .
>> immigration .
>> immigration reform .
>> our immigration system is broken.
>> we need congress to act.
>> the issue of immigration is not a simple one.
>> look, senator, rubio is for it.
>> he is now the emissary.
>> the face of the national tea par party.
>> i think we'll do a tremendous service to our country.
>> they may get a deal on immigration .
>> it wouldn't be a quick process, but will be a fair process.
>> the so-called embrace of immigration reform , but not so fast.
>> why are we doing this? the president is in las vegas today.
>> back in las vegas .
>> he imposes enforcement.
>> i believe we need to stay focused on enforcement.
>> democrats are not interested in border security .
>> that means to continue to strengthen the border security . members of the parties are working on a solution.
>> where is the common ground ? i don't see it.
>> the path to citizenship is a long and arduous one.
>> we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform .
>> we are committed to a comprehensive approach.
>> i think we're all out there alone folks.
>> the question is now simple. do we have the resolve? i believe that we do. i believe that we do.
>> president obama went to a high school today in what used to be mexico , las vegas , nevada, to urge congress to overhaul the immigration system.
>> today i'm laying out my ideas for immigration reform . and my hope is that this provides some key markers to members of congress as they craft a bill. because the ideas i'm proposing have traditionally been supported by both democrats like ted kennedy and republicans like president george w. bush . you don't get that matchup very often.
>> the president's plan is similar to the plan eight bipartisan senators put forward yesterday, but it has not even cleared the path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the united states now.
>> for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a path to citizenship. we have got to lay out a path. a process that includes passing a background check . paying taxes, paying a penalty. learning english. and then going to the back of the line behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally. that is only fair. all right.
>> under the president's proposal, undocumented workers would be required to register, submit to background checks , pay fees and penalties, learn english and have their paperwork start at the back of the immigration processing line. senator john mccain released a statement saying while there are some differences in our approaches to this issue, we share the belief that any reform must recognize america as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. we should all agree that border security and enforcement is particularly important. house speaker john boehner released a statement saying we hope the president is careful not to drag the debate to the left. and ultimately disrupt the difficult work that is ahead in the house and senate. the president made it clear he is going to keep the pressure on congress.
>> if congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, i will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.
>> joining me now is msnbc's joy reid and richard wolff , and the organizer at united we dream. joy, what is the main difference between the president's plan and the other introduced yesterday?
>> well, the main difference is triggers that seems to be you can do whatever you want if there is a trigger. and for the republicans they believe you have to do significant border enforcement first, and whoever decides they have deemed enforcement to be sufficient then you can allow people to get a path to citizenship. so it is basically probation, the 11 million undocumented people in the country would be on probation, but wouldn't get the pathway to citizenship until this decision is made that enforcement is sufficient.
>> let's listen to a little what the president said about being a nation of immigrants.
>> unless you're one of the first immigrants, the natives, you came from a land of immigrants, the germans, the irish, the polish, the russians, the chinese, the japanese, the huddled masses who came through ellis island on one coast. all of those folks, before there were us, there were them.
>> richard wolff , he certainly has talked o -- about us -- you found your path to citizenship.
>> that is true.
>> is the president going to have to continue to go out and try to sell this plan outside of washington? what do you see as the game plan between selling it inside washington and outside washington?
>> well, let me just start by picking that up, okay? because a personal note here, as somebody who has gone through immigration process i have to say this country is unique. and uniquely proud of immigrants and immigration . and one of of the striking things for me in the naturalization ceremony was how the judge, the presiding judge who swore us all in as american citizens said you new immigrants are the essence of this country. i think that is an incredibly important thing for the president to say at this time. and that is what he was saying. that the spirit of this country is renewed, captured by the immigrants who built this country. so you know, that is what presidents have to do. they have to capture the narrative. it has been a running theme for this president to place himself inside the story of immigrants coming to make their fortune and succeeding against the odds. that is the american spirit . so that is the back drop for this debate that these people are not aliens. they are not illegals. they are part and parcel of the fabric of this country. so i think that is a very important presidential moment. and it does help to shift the debate in what is almost certain to be a nativist back lash from the very forces that undermined president bush 's immigration reform proposals.
>> so what does this mean for you?
>> first of all, are lawrence, i want to thank you for having me on your show. for example, three weeks ago, other dream organizers and myself didn't sleep because we were mobilizing to stop the deportation of our friends. it took hundreds of calls, thousands of petitions and signatures just to stop a bus full of people to stop one person from getting deported. and that bus continues to deport the rest of the families and separate the rest of the families included on that bus. so to hear president obama say we need more of this enforcement is a little bit outrageous. i think we have been enforced enough on as a community. and the time has come to really address the situation and what to do with our americans that are here, living, contributing to the society. the time has come to keep families together.
>> joy, what celso mentioned is one of the bipartisan pillars of the community. chuck schumer and others said tough but fair, they want to emphasize the tough, enforcing it. president obama has been as tough on our southern border as any president has ever been.
>> you know, exactly, the president established in the first term being very tough on border, more so than george w. bush . and the constant talk of being tough, that gets the republicans to sign on to the bill. the enforcement part of it is already built in, this administration is already doing it. what is needed now is a sane path to legalization, which the president, the difference between him now and republicans and people like marco rubio are complaining, the republicans are making it like probation, it doesn't make sense, these are people already here, working paying taxes, sales taxes , et cetera , whose children are in school. if it is all about keeping families together at the end of the day republicans understand they're going to have to do this. it is just a matter of what you have to put in there language-wise to make it palatable to enough senate republicans to make it pass.
>> let's hear what senator rubio says today.
>> he doesn't want enforcement before we have the green card path. that would be a terrible mistake. for the president to try to move the goal post on that specific requirement as an example doesn't bode well in what his term is going to be.
>> richard wolff i think we have to get used to that kind of talk in this debate. because what marco rubio can't do every day is say i agree with president obama . i agree with president obama . he has got to find the spots where he can claim he is to the right of president obama like on this -- what i don't think is a very big distinction on the whole enforcement side.
>> it is not, unless you're prepared to militaryize and fence the entire southern border of the united states , no, we're not talking about a big difference, but yes, he has to use the president as a foil and criticize him. actually, the real issue is the employment verification. and there is agreement on that, too, if they want to have a fight it is like a wrestling match, go ahead and pretend you're hitting each other on the head. but in the end we know who the winner is going to be and where it is declared.
>> celso , what is your hope on where this ends up?
>> i want to put it in perspective, based on obama's speech. based on the deportation numbers, 400,000 families get separated. 19 families were separated while he spoke. this needs to add real urgency to the fact that families are being separated as we speak right now. so we really need to make sure the president and congress is serious about creating a solution for the community that is here right now, suffering under the current enforcement-only policies that are currently in existence right now.
>> joy reid, richard wolff and celso , thank you for joining us.
>> first, one of the leaders of the bipartisan group, marco rubio calls into rush limbaugh 's radio show . and now i don't have any idea what rush limbaugh thinks about this anymore. republicans versus republicans . and then, the father of one of the children killed in the newtown massacre testifies about the murder of his son. and he is heckled by gun worshippers. and then of course, the right wing bloggers defend the hecklers. and then, a preview of what the blood-drenched lobbyist, wayne lapierre , will tell a senate committee tomorrow.