Obama again calls for comprehensive immigration reform

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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President Barack Obama called again for comprehensive immigration reform in a talk at American University, Washington, D.C. (see Washington Post). He reiterated his support for "a pathway to citizenship' for the 11 million undocumented in the country, asserted that the southern border was "more secure today than at any time in the past 20 years," and only questions the courage and political will of Congress "to finally get it done."

He laid out no timeline for action, only that the work begin "this year." Here he is being realistic, since action in both chambers of Congress is at a standstill. There is other major legislation that Congress is already working on or must get done for the new fiscal year.

Besides, most Democrats think reform would be too close a call in the House, and they don't have the votes to beat back a filibuster in the Senate. Obama, as a consequence, insists that reform must be bipartisan and he asked for Republicans "to step up." Hardly likely in this election year! Still Obama dangled more security on the border as an enticement.

Immigration advocates, while encouraged that Obama took this initiative and met with the Hispanic Congressional Caucus two days before, are somewhat skeptical. Some thinks it no more than a ploy to hold Hispanic votes in November. Others don't question the president's sincerity but think he's wrong to dangle "security" as an incentive to the GOP to do what is right.

The issue of reform had been revived after the Arizona law, but disappeared from the news as Afghanistan and financial reform grabbed the headlines. The new Congress will be less sympathetic to reform. Yet realistically, they understand that the positive elements of reform will not pass without tightening the borders.

They don't by the argument that the U.S.-Mexican border is a war zone--neither does Obama - but recognize that that impression has captured the public's mind. This fear welds with other fears about the economy, the culture, the war, etc., so that "a secure border" seems to be the trade-off for "the path to citizenship"--which the polls indicate the public will accepted (see Washington Post .)