A dream doesn't become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination and hard work.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Nightmares of Kenyans living in Britain illegally


When John Muriuki needs to buy milk and bread, he sneaks out of his single bedroom flat in London to the nearest shop furtively looking behind his shoulder to see if he is being followed by police officers.

John, 29, has overstayed his student visa since 2007 and spends his time cooped up in his flat with a borrowed laptop from a fellow Kenyan for company. That is his only connection with the outside world.

“I feel very depressed many times,” he says, “but I do not want to return to Kenya because of the shame I will bring to my parents and humiliation from my neighbours.”

When he first arrived in London for studies, he saw promise and visions of a new life abroad. “My father sweated to pay for my studies. I want to care for him in his old age but my immigration problems have shattered my dreams.

“It is difficult to live on little money in London. This is an expensive city. Thankfully, Kenyans are a close-knit community and they try to help each other.

Stuffing letters

One mwananchi I met at the church got me a regular three-day job of stuffing letters in envelopes for small companies. They pay me five pence per envelope and I earn £250 a week.”

On other days, he does odd jobs like gardening for people he knows from the church which brings him another £150. He saves and sends some money “to my father giving the impression that I am doing well here.”

Though this income keeps him going, he has a constant fear of that knock on the door from immigration officers. He accepts that his life is a mess even though he has a honours degree, considering that there are no prospects of a job without permission to live here legally.

Rachel Kimani came to the UK in 1997 and converted her tourist visa to a student one.

“I studied with money sent from home. I graduated and approached a lawyer to change my status but he disappeared forcing me to go underground,” sha says. “Life was very tough. I could not walk down the street because I feared being stopped by the authorities.”

She lived with friends in a small house where there were both legal and illegal immigrants.

British-Kenyan Human Rights lawyer Tito Mbariti, who works with the Leicester-based Johl and Company, is aware of the plight of wananchi living precariously on borrowed time.

Many Kenyans have turned to him for help with immigration matters.

More than 2,000 Kenyans are living illegally here and though some living here illegally have genuinely been victims of repression in Kenya, others have faked claims of being targets to cheat the Home Office.

“Those living here illegally are stuck. Most cannot return home because their families sold everything or used fundraisers.

Those in the UK are their only source of income,” Mbariti said.

Barely survive

They cannot work legally and earn more money. Most barely survive here. They cannot return home because they will not know where to start from.

They go underground in the hope of being granted permanent settlement.

“The undocumented Kenyans also have a lot of pressure from home as they support relatives. When they receive money from the UK and convert it they think there is a lot of money in this country. Little do they realise they are only on a minimum wage here but their demands for money increase,” said Mbariti.

Most Kenyans come on visit visas as part of the church, to study or to meet relatives. Many return home while others go underground. Those without friends depend on the churches and soup-kitchens for hand-outs and meals. Illegals lead a hard life — unable to obtain welfare services — free medical care and social security pay outs, they end up in the hands of shady employers who offer tough labour jobs for slave wages.

They receive £20 daily working 14-hour shifts instead of statutory minimum £91 for the same hours.

Most Kenyans are exploited in the construction industry, farms or security firms; plumbers and those who perform odd jobs get a pittances.

The government has tightened laws on free medical treatment . Though anyone can seek hospital medical treatment but those who cannot prove their residency have to pay.

Most illegals avoid going to hospital for minor ailments for the fear of being found except in dire emergencies.

Heavy risks

An organisation that looked after their welfare closed down but there are plans to see if churches can provide a similar service.

Mbariti urged the formation of an umbrella organisation to provide important immigration information which at present is sparsely given by underfunded small diaspora groups.

Kenyans, like other illegal foreigners, have used ingenious ways to enter Britain.

Some took the circuitous route in Europe through Calais, France and hiding in container trucks or car boots.

Most Kenyans however, avoided the “donkey route” popular with foreigners in the 1990s.

It involved travelling through hazardous routes by road or boat because of the heavy risks involved.

Instead, they obtain a Schengen visa say, for France, but go on the run after disembarking in London while in transit.

They find wananchi through the Church who support them.

They even sleep on the floor as long as there is a roof over their heads.

Some use marriages to the English to obtain residency rights.

Some liaisons fail and the British partners demand their removal from Britain.

Portas Ongondo, 55, father three sons and a caretaker at the Lady Elizabeth Hastings School in Collingham, Leeds who married a Briton, was sent to Kenya in October after he broke up with his wife.

The locals have joined hands to demand his return to Britain but all the legal avenues to save him from expulsion have been exhausted.

Portas is in Nairobi hoping that he will manage to re-join his sons while back in Britain, campaign is underway to fight for his return.

Those living illegally often mingle with Kenyans in similar position instead of approaching Britons who could report them to the authorities.

Mbariti advises Kenyans not to go to UK for settlement without proper papers as the laws are getting tough and “all those panya routes have been closed. “They can come here as students but should return to Kenya at the end of their studies,” he said.

The UK is currently not an attractive destination because of high living costs. Some Kenyans live rough on the street.

“My worst fear was not being arrested and sent back home but being held in detention for many months,” Rachel said.

She advises Kenyans to come to UK as students but not to take the risk of thinking they will convert their short-term visa to a permanent stay.

“Otherwise please stay back at home because Britain is not a bed of roses,” she warned.

Saturday, 29 November 2014


"I’m sorry, I will never do it again"

November 29, 2014 

After the video of a Ugandan Nanny torturing a baby went viral on the internet.

The house-girl was charged, arrested & put in jail.

Now in an exclusive interview with a Ugandan media house (UgandaOnline.net).

The Nanny who goes by the name Jolly Tumuhiirwe explains her actions:

My dad in Kabale was very sick and yet my mom did not have any money. I asked my bosses for some money to send to my dad but they told me that I hadn’t made a month yet and my father was dying, so it kept on haunting me.

That is the more reason I referred the anger to the baby but I’m sorry. But that madam (Arnella’s mom) is not easy. She used to say that I steal money from the clothes and Eric’s wallet, I eat the babies food…and yet I can’t eat the food, I’m not a baby, those were all lies, so, I was also not happy from my heart.

I feel guilty..ok when I was doing it I thought I was disciplining the baby because also the mother sometimes slaps her, I also saw from the mom. The torch I used was small and it’s not hard. I think, I will never do it again


“It’s not good at all here in prison. Even my fellow prisoners don’t want to associate with me, they want to beat me up. In fact they were saying that I should not join them in their rooms, nobody likes me and I’m feeling bad I will never do it again, I ask the world to forgive me and also tell the bosses who have maids to treat them well.

Why you might be working in Africa by 2030

Revving American Relations With Africa

Why You Should Care

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the world’s fastest-growing populations and economies. The U.S. needs to up its game to avoid losing out on opportunities.

The rise of Africa’s middle class could be the story of the 21st century. Asia and Europe have been on to this — leading the way with trade and investment — and now the United States is starting to wake up to the potential.

“The largest workforce on earth will be in Africa in 2030,” noted Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, the Democratic chairman of the chamber’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa. “There is a huge youth bulge.”

In less than 50 years, the continent’s middle class is projected to exceed 1 billion. And that means consumers ready to spend money on household goods and services like banking and health care. Countries like China, India, France and England have already dotted the continent with investments, trade offices and infrastructure projects.

An employee from the China Machinery Engineering Corporation looks at workers on a construction site in Bassam.

But U.S. businesses have been lagging, and it will take a big effort to catch up. The U.S. government has recently taken the lead.

It started with President Obama’s swing through Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa last summer, visiting regional partners and launching a new initiative, Power Africa, to promote American investment in the continent’s energy sector. Earlier this spring, Obama’s Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, led a trade mission with 20 U.S. companies to Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia.

And next week, the Obama administration is hosting its most high-profile gathering of all — the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, an unprecedented gathering of nearly 50 African heads of state, along with African and American CEOs and civil society leaders, in Washington.

The U.S. is a clear underachiever.

The theme: “Investing in the Next Generation.”

“This is the moment to take our partnership to the next level,” White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice said earlier this week.

They’ll have to, or American businesses could miss out.

That, at least, is the worry of many Africa boosters in the United States, who believe Sub-Saharan African countries are now on the verge of busting out, much as Asia did earlier. And it will be driven less by natural resources than demographics. 

Workers loading bags of grain donated by USA via the World Food Program to fight famine in Ethiopia.

Of course, America, as the world’s largest economy, has an important presence in Africa. The U.S. remains Sub-Saharan Africa’s No. 1 source of foreign direct investment and is its No. 2 trading partner, eclipsed by China last decade.

But relative to American commerce in other regions and compared to other countries’ engagement, the U.S. is a clear underachiever.

U.S. trade with Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, has more or less flatlined since the middle of last decade. In contrast, European Union trade has more than doubled in the last decade, while the Chinese have grown their trade 17-fold since 2000, going from just $10 billion to more than $170 billion in 2013.

U.S. investment in Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, represents less than 1 percent of what American companies invest overseas. And there’s little diversification. The vast majority of American commerce on the continent is focused on natural resources — oil, gas and metals. Taking advantage of the unfolding opportunities will require a new type of business, focused on that fast-growing middle class.

The theme of Africa in shambles has been so pervasive for so long [in the United States, creating] a mismatch between real and perceived risks.

For decades America has approached Sub-Saharan Africa as a humanitarian cause. Food aid to respond to famines. Peacekeepers to stabilize war-torn societies. President George W. Bush’s landmark PEPFAR program to provide lifesaving HIV-AIDS drugs. 

The summit aims to change the focus: “trade, not aid.”

Or as President Obama put it last year in Cape Town, South Africa, U.S.-Africa relations today should be “a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to solve problems, and your capacity to grow.”

Right now, Africa’s demonstrating plenty of capacity to grow. GDP growth has been robust so far this century, except for a dip during the global financial crises. It’s expected to pick up again this year, exceeding 5 percent.

Yet major barriers remain: corruption, a lack of law and order, political instability and poor infrastructure all hamper African economies and deter American commerce there.

“There’s also a perception aspect,” says Ben Leo, a Fellow at the nonprofit Center for Global Development and onetime White House staffer on Africa.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands with the crowd in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013
SOURCE Pete Souza/White House

“The theme of Africa in shambles has been so pervasive for so long” in the United States, Leo says. And that’s created “a mismatch between real and perceived risks.”

With its colonial ties to the continent, Europe has been less hung-up on those kinds of perceptions and more engaged. And China’s state-run model of commerce in Africa mitigates much of the risk. 

In the U.S., the private sector is in the lead, but they still need a helping hand from government to make headway in this politically complicated and financially risky arena. 

The test for U.S. leaders in the coming months is whether they’re willing to ante up the money and political muscle to match the changing rhetoric.

A key U.S. trade law to promote African imports expires next September, and Congress is working to reauthorize it — and broaden its reach. Members of Congress have also introduced legislation to institutionalize and expand the White House’s Power Africa initiative. Advocates hope that next week’s summit will provide momentum for those aims, not to mention for other investment agreements and funding for more trade-promotion programs and personnel in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than anything, the summit should open eyes in America’s business community to Africa’s economic potential.

That could help to unleash America’s competitive advantages: a large African diaspora, the most advanced financial sector in a part of the world hungry for capital and services, and plenty of goodwill from African publics. All that’s missing is the motivation. And that’s starting to change.

Go Deep
Emily covers government, world affairs, business and sports for OZY. California-bred and D.C. based, she's reported from four of the world's seven continents -- still waiting for a byline from South America, Australia and Antarctica!
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Friday, 28 November 2014

MUTAHI NGUNYI strikes again and UHURU is at the end of his sword! That comment!

November 27, 2014 

Kenyans flocked social media condemning President Uhuru Kenyatta over his unprintable remark regarding the Saturday massacre of 28 Christians in Mandera by Al-Shabaab terrorists.

Victims and Kenyans alike vented their anger accusing Uhuru of being insensitive to the plight of Kenyans, especially the victims of terror activities.

In his remark on Mandera massacre, Uhuru blamed Kenyans for the Al-Shabaab attack saying Kenyans themselves should have done something to avert the killings and warned them to stop blaming the police or Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku and Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo.

He said Kenyans should take care of themselves and manage their own security rather than wait for the police, who he noted will not be there always.

However, the statement aggravated things promoting Kenyans to roast the President live on social media for responding to terror attacks with disregard – Right now teh hash tag #stopthedrunkpresident is trending courtesy of that remark.

Uhuru’s unthought-of remark also caught the wrath of his best friend and political analyst, Mutahi Ngunyi, who reprimanded him for saying things without thinking.

Speaking during a media interview, Mutahi Ngunyi, cautioned Uhuru to be mindful of Kenyans each time he opens his mouth to speak and avoid saying things that he ought not to say which may rub Kenyans the wrong way.

He noted that Uhuru’s remark on the Mandera massacre was uncalled for and totally ill advised and should not have said anything.

Ngunyi advised Uhuru not to comment about Al-Shabaab terror attacks without concrete and convincing responses as Kenyans will not take him serious because they are now used to him and his Deputy, William Ruto, making promises they can’t keep.

“If I was in Uhuru’s shoes, I would not talk about Mandera massacre and I would not talk about Al-Shabaab attacks without enough information,” said Ngunyi.
- See more at: http://www.uwezonews.com/latest-news/mutahi-ngunyi-strikes-again-and-uhuru-is-at-the-end-of-his-sword-that-comment-2/#sthash.vG8vh6WK.dpuf

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Kenya receives US$166m for Mass Transport System in Nairobi from EU

Road construction NairobiRoad construction in Nairobi 
The European Union will partner with European development institutions to mobilize funds for development projects in Kenya and change the mode of financing from giving grants to offering loans. Institutions that the union is seeking to partner with include the French Agency for Development (AFD), German Development Bank (KfW) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The delegation will provide US$166m for the construction of a mass transport system in Nairobi. Of the amount, US$78m will be in the form of grants, while the remaining will be in the form of loans from European Institutions. The plans for a Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) aimed at decongesting Nairobi County.

The mass rapid system is planned to pass through Kikuyu, Kitengela, Machakos, Limuru, Thika, Athi River and Kajiado. Major transport corridors will be established around Nairobi where lanes designated for public transport vehicles will be constructed.

The system will see the creation of radial, interconnected roads and a railway city. The project will then be implemented in phases of which the first phase has been scheduled to commence in 2017 and be ready by 2030. In this phase, priority will be given to the construction of the bus transit network which will later determine the routes for the rail system. The second phase will be begin in 2030 where lanes will be constructed using the laid down network.

The entire project will be implemented at an estimated cost of US$ 1bn. The project will be funded by the African development Bank (AfDB), World Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency and the French Agency for Development (AFD). Kenya is also setting to undertake construction/upgrading of 10, 000 km of roads, part of which local and international contractors have been qualified for the initial  3000km. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Kenyans voted the ugliest Africans

September 4, 2014 

A dubious poll performed in South Africa established the most beautiful people in Africa and listed them in order. The result was that Kenyans fell at the butt end of that list. The real question is, how many people actually believe this nonsense?
Three years ago, stories went up online about a list titled ‘Annual Most Beautiful People Awards’ which was reportedly held in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Maid captured on video torturing baby to appear in court on December 8


The Maid that was captured appearing to be torturing a toddler in a video is set to appear in court for a second hearing on December 8.
The video that went viral on social media on Friday depicting a maid torturing a two-year-old toddler has sparked mass outrage.
In the video, which went viral on Facebook, Jolly Tumuhirwe, a 22-year-old housemaid in Naalya in Kiwatule suburb, appears to be battering the baby with a hard object on the face. When the child starts vomiting, the video shows the maid throwing her heartlessly on the floor of the living room. She then beats her with a hard object before standing on the baby’s back several times and the toddler groaned in pain on the floor.

House girl who tortured baby identified, baby alive and well

Edited by Robert Ndawula

Kamanzi (L) and his kids. Right is the tortured baby
Following reports that the two-year old baby seen in a video being tortured by a maid has passed on, we went down to work. And our investigations led us to the identity of the maid, her victim and her master. (Read Video: Househelp’s vicious attack on toddler caught on camera )
The two year-old is seen terribly tortured by a maid we have ably identified as Jolly Tumuhiirwe, 22, a born of Rukungiri District. We have also identified the toddler’s father as Erick Kamanzi, a loaded staff at a reputable NGO in Kampala who released the video yesterday mid-morning.
The video captured by interior security cameras early last week at Kamanzi’s home of Naalya, reveals a breath-taking story where Tumuhiirwe is trying to feed the baby. The baby, whom we have established was sick at the time, exhibits difficulty in coping with the rough and speedy rate at which Tumuhiirwe fed her.
Tumuhiirwe then turns to the porridge and started eating it. But the tot could not contain the stuffed food down her throat. She threw up dreadfully. This invited Tumuhiirwe’s wrath. She landed a hot slap on the kid before throwing her off the sofa, her face kissing the floor. She remained there for a few seconds before Tumuhiirwe followed.
Using a rechargeable torch, she clobbered her severely. Not done, she started kicking her and stepping on her back in turns. She finally gave her the last kick which sent her silent and unable to move. Tumuhiirwe then picked the baby like by one hand and vanished in the next room.
Father Arrested
According to family sources, Kamanzi last week came home and found some bruises on the baby’s hind. He did not ask what happened but he hastily went to review the cameras which, he had taken long to monitor. This was last Saturday November 15 th 2014.
What he saw is what we have relayed above and uploaded on the video herein. Raged to the marrow, Kamanzi bounced on Tumuhiirwe and clobbered her to pulp. Done with it, he turned to tend to the baby as Tumuhiirwe ran to police where, she reported an assault case against her Master Kamanzi.
The Kiwatule police swung into action, raided Kamanzi’s home and arrested him. He promptly confessed to the charge before he was dragged to cells. After cooling down, Kamanzi asked the Cops to look at what made him clobber the maid. A mere look at the video changed the cops’s stance and released Kamanzi.
Speaking to the investigator today, police chief spokesman CP Fred Enanga confirmed that Tumuhiirwe’s case had been taken over by the events. Reading the file number as CRB 1346/14 of Kiira Road, Enanga said Tumuhiirwe was yesterday charged under Anti-torture Act at Nakawa Court.
But Enanga hastily adds that police are contemplating on revising the charge and upgrade it to attempted murder. He said the Tumuhiirwe will re-appear in Court on December 8th 2014. Efforts to get hints on the baby’s mother were futile as family sources maintained silence on the question.
We have however established that Kamanzi is married to a beautiful Rwandese babe Angella whose reasons to stay away from her baby yet she doesn’t work, remains suspect. But this is another story for another day. It is said Tumuhiirwe was at the home for only three months.

Kenya bus killings claimed by Somali group al-Shabab

Gunmen from the Somali militant group al-Shabab say they have attacked a bus in northern Kenya, killing 28 people.
The bus was travelling to the capital, Nairobi, when it was stopped in Mandera county, not far from the Somali border.
Gunmen separated out non-Muslims by asking passengers to read from the Koran, officials and witnesses said. Those who failed were then shot in the head.
Al-Shabab has carried out a series of attacks in Kenya since 2011.
A statement on a website linked to the Islamist group carried a statement saying the attack was carried out in retaliation for security raids on mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa earlier this week. 
Kenya's interior ministry said on its Twitter feed that a camp belonging to the attackers had been destroyed by Kenyan military helicopters and jets, with "many killed".
'Point blank'
One of the passengers on the bus, Ahmed Mahat, told the BBC that there were more than 60 passengers on board when it was attacked, before dawn on Saturday, about 30km (19 miles) from Mandera town.
The driver tried to accelerate away, but the vehicle became stuck in mud caused by recent heavy rains, he said.
About 10 heavily armed men talking Somali ordered the passengers off the bus.
"When we got down, passengers were separated according to Somali and non-Somalis," Mr Mahat said. 
"The non-Somalis were ordered to read some verses of the holy Koran, and those who failed to read were ordered to lie down. One by one they were shot in the head at point blank range." 
Some Somalis were shot after pleading with the gunmen to spare non-Somali passengers, Mr Mahat added.
Security agencies were "in pursuit of the criminal gang" that carried out the attack, the interior ministry said. It described the assailants as "bandits". 
After the attack, a local official quoted by Kenyan media said the government had failed to answer their pleas for extra security.
"This place has been prone to attacks," county official Abdullahi Abdirahman told The Daily Nation. 
"This is not the first time the government has totally ignored us, and you can now see the how many innocent precious lives have been lost."
Mr Mahat, a teacher from Mandera, said police never came to rescue people from attacks for fear of being ambushed themselves. 
Mombasa raids
The attack comes after a week of heightened tension in Mombasa, which has suffered a series of al-Shabab attacks.
Security forces raided mosques in the city, saying they were being used to store weapons. The raids triggered apparent revenge attacks by Muslim youths.
Kenya has experience a series of al-Shabab attacks since it sent troops to Somalia three years ago to help fight the militant group.
Mandera, a remote area in Kenya's north-east that shares a long and porous border with Somalia, has been one of the regions worst-affected by the violence.
On the Somali side of the border, al-Shabab is said to have a base that was recently bombed by Kenyan warplanes. It was not immediately clear whether this was the same base targeted by Kenya following Saturday's attack.
There was unrest in Mandera in June after two clerics accused of belonging to al-Shabab were shot dead. Residents protested that the clerics had no links to the group. 
Al-Shabab - a potent threat in East Africa
Are you, or do you know anyone, in the area? Email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk
Or comment below.

Al Shabab militants Extremists Hijack Bus And Kill 28 Non-Muslims

Saturday November 22, 2014 

Al Shabab militants have hijacked a bus in Kenya, with gunmen singling out 28 non-Muslims and shooting them dead, according to police.

One officer said the passengers, who were travelling to Nairobi, were "brutally executed" by the Islamic extremists. 

His colleague claimed that the 60 people on board were told to disembark, and then sorted into two groups based on the faith they professed.

The attack took place in Mandera, a town on the border between Kenya and Somalia. An estimated 100 militants were involved.

According to a regional police chief, the extremists were planning to drive the non-Muslims into Somalia, but the bus became stuck.

Al Shabab, a well-known terror organisation, was also responsible for the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which left 67 people dead.

The group, which has been fighting to topple Somalia's government, said last September's massacre was in retaliation to the continued presence of Kenyan troops in the warring country.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga unite in grief

President Obama’s Speech On Immigration Reform

President Barack Obama

My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.

First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.

Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.

Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants – in every state, of every race and nationality – will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.

As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”

Now here’s the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.

That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.

That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose – a higher purpose.

Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.

Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?

Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America?

That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.

I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.

Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid – or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?

Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.