He called on Congress to reform the immigration system in a manner that would encourage skilled and motivated immigrants to participate in American society while ending what he called an underground economy that preys on low-wage illegal immigrants.
"We need to come together around reform that reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, that demands everyone take responsibility," he said.
Ahead of Mr Obama's speech, White House aides stressed Mr Obama remained committed to reform, even though Republicans derailed overhaul efforts in 2006, 2007 and 2010.Conspicuously missing from the list of reforms, however, is any mention of changing the family preference system. The perception of undocumented immigrants "jumping to the head of the line" is skewed by the fact that most immigrants who arrive legally are relatives of current citizens and they have a much lower labor force participation rate than undocumented immigrants. We need and want the workers, but we don't let them in. In other words, the preference system is broken, but few people seem interested in addressing that fact. Without such a change, it may be impossible to create a reform that will be agreeable to Congress. In the meantime, of course, the states continue to step into the void left by the lack of Congressional action.
Arizona, Georgia and Utah have passed measures giving police the power to demand documentation from people they suspect of being illegal immigrants who have been detained on other charges.
Arizona's law has been put on hold by the federal courts [although Arizona is appealing directly to the US Supreme Court]
Meanwhile, a judge in Utah blocked the state's new immigration law on Friday, just hours after it went into effect. District Judge Clark Waddoups issued his ruling in Salt Lake City, citing its similarity to Arizona's law.