Obama Takes On Immigration Reform, Yet Again
By Dolores M. Bernal, NEWS JUNKIE POST
The promises and pledges that the now President Barack Obama made during the campaign trail last year are still up on his website. Obama’s “Blueprint For America,” is still available for download; the PDF file is a guide to all the issues that he would take on as the new president, including the issue of immigration reform, which included a remark he made when he was still at the Senate —
“The time to fix our broken immigration system is now…We need stron¬ger enforcement on the border and at the workplace…But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America…Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should.”
But since Obama was inaugurated as president six months ago, immigration advocates have not heard very much from him about what his administration will do to fulfill his campaign pledge of reforming U.S. immigration policy — that is until today. The president will meet with Republican and Democratic legislators to discuss next steps towards resolving the issue of illegal immigration, border security, and pathways to legalization.
This is what Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said about it at his briefing on Wednesday:
[The] President has started some conversations on this issue. The President had the Congressional Hispanic Caucus at the White House earlier this year, and tomorrow both sides of the aisle and both sides of the issue will be represented.
I think in many ways, how this moves forward — I think the President wants to talk with members of Congress and share different opinions and viewpoints as to what the best path forward is, understanding that the President strongly believes that the only way to deal with this is through a comprehensive reform plan. So I think the President hopes that tomorrow we continue that conversation, and he’ll get more information from Congress about what they see as the path forward, as well.
Immigration rights advocates were glad to hear about the meeting.
“Having the President firmly committed to comprehensive immigration reform puts pressure on Congress to act and move us forward on this issue,” said Ali Noorani from the National Immigration Forum in a statement. “The President wants reform, the American people want reform, now it’s time for Congress to catch up with the voters and pass a bill.”
There are about 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the country; many of them have been in the US for decades, have formed families, and have made the US their home, according to immigration advocates. But certain propositions for immigration reform that have been offered such as, legalizing undocumented immigrants, has drawn lots of opposition. This resistance created an environment for two previous bills in Congress, including the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform bill, to fail.
FAIR, one of the organizations that lobbied to defeat the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform Bill, issued this statement shortly after the deciding vote in May 2006:
[The] bill would have put illegal aliens on a path to U.S. citizenship and flooded the country with hundreds of thousands of new “guest workers” each year who would also have been allowed to remain in the country permanently.
Fierce public opposition, and heroic senators of both parties who were willing to stand up to special interest pressure, blocked the bill from being voted on by the full Senate. With the threat of a filibuster looming, supporters of amnesty recognized that they did not have the votes necessary to invoke cloture, or limit debate, and bring the bill to a vote, and gave up on the bill.
But despite the fierce opposition in the past, pro-immigration reform advocates feel that they have a chance this time around, even with the current economic downturn. They believe that Obama’s “wish-list” of things he wants accomplish this year may fail if the immigration issue is not addressed as soon as possible.
“Until Congress deals with immigration – makes taxpayers out of all immigrants, makes all employers follow the rules, and creates a functioning legal immigration system – everything else on the President’s domestic agenda is vulnerable to being dragged down,” Noorani has said.
“Congress needs to act very quickly….So, in these economic times we actually think that immigration reform makes sense as part of economic recovery. We know that Congress has a full platter, but we think that Congress can walk and chew gum at the same time. Immigration reform is consistent with America’s need for an economic recovery package; it’s consistent with the need to know who’s in our country, to have secure borders; and its consistent with who we are as a nation, as a nation of immigrants,” said Angela Kelly from the Center For American Progress.