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State of the Union: What Will Obama Do About Gun Violence, Climate Change, and Immigration Reform?


President Obama is expected to devote much of his State of the Union address to his adminstration's plan to create jobs and expand economic opportunities for the middle class.   What else will he bring up in his wish list for the first year of his second term?  The President's inaugural speech suggests that he will also put forward his plans to reform immigration, curb gun violence, and address climate change.


Here's what we know about the President's agenda for the immigration reform, gun violence, and the environment:


Gun Violence: The tragic Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings generated a tremendous shift in momentum in favor of more targeted gun control legislation.  The President responded to the outcry by creating a task force headed by his VP Joe Biden, and the two together put forward to Congress in mid-January a series of measures to limit the sales of the most dangerous kinds of weapons and ammunition.  Much of the President's agenda requires action by Congress, from which he expects to pass a universal background check law as well as legislation restoring the expired ban on military style assault weapons and high capacity magazines, among other measures.    To keep up the public pressure on Congress for action, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)  instigated a plan for lawmakers to invite victims of gun violence as their personal guests, and so at the Capitol this evening expect a "heavy presence" of people who have been directly affected by the nation’s deadliest shootings, including Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson and Newtown, according CBS' Jonathan Karl.   Check out our gallery below about Curbing Gun Violence to learn more about and support organizations calling for tighter resrictions on the sales of arms and ammunition.


Immigration Reform:  In his inaugural speech the President announced that immigration reform would be a priority for his administration's second term, demanding that our country "find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity."   In late January, a bipartisan group of eight senators presented to Congress a preliminary plan to overhaul the nation's immigration system and ease the path to citizenship for immigrants in the United States. Addressing a crowd in Las Vegas President Obama said he would put forward his own legislation if Congress fails to act quickly to support the Senators' plan.   According to Mary Giovagnoli of the Immigration Policy Center, both the President's and the "Group of Eight" Senators' plan provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, as well as address border reform, an updated legal immigration system, and more employment-based visas and green cards for highly-skilled workers.  The President's plan includes provisions to reduce racial profiling by border partrol agents, reform immigration court and give same-sex couples equal treatment under immigration law.  The Senate plan places more emphasis on border patrol and calls for the creation of a guest worker program, provisions that appeal to more conservative members of Congress that favor immigration reform.  While there is broad-based public support for immigration reform in general, and growing support for a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 millon residents who live in legal limbo, this support is by no means universal– a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that people who identify themselves as "very conservative" oppose a path to citizenship by a 37-61 margin.    Check out our "Pathway to Citizenship" Gallery below to find out and support the organizations calling for a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants, especially those who came to the United States as children.  


Climate Change: In his inaugural address, the President promised that our nation will respond to climate change by forging a path towards sustainable energy souces, admonishing our country not to resist this transition, but to lead it.  Given the extreme weather events of the past year, as the National Journal suggests there is no need for the President to sugarcoat the dire need for action.   What mix of policies, regulations, and incentives Obama will be able to get through Congress is less certain.  One of the most pressing environmental issues the President faces is the approval (or rejection) of a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline to connect oil from mining operations in Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of the US for refining.  While he presents his agenda this evening, tens of thousands of activists are gearing up to demonstrate on Sunday in Washington DC to demand that our nation move away from dependence on fossil fuels– especially the oil sands–  which they consider to be one of the most dangerous sources of carbon emmissions in the world.   Check out our Gallery below to learn more about the Oil Sands and the groups protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.


Watch for #SOTU tweets from @GoodSpeaks this evening.