After President Obama’s speech on July 1st, the prognosis for for immigration reform in 2010 seems the same as before.
Nothing is clear.
Nothing is certain.
No new plans, no real details were laid out.
Said the President, “The system is broken. And everybody knows it. Unfortunately, reform has been held hostage to political posturing and special-interest wrangling -– and to the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics.”
Indeed, this is a big problem. However, it offers no solutions.
The President also noted that immigration “is an emotional question, and one that lends itself to demagoguery.”
As a result, he claimed it is understandable for those who run for office “to turn away and defer this question for another day, or another year, or another administration.”
Not very encouraging.
In short, reading between the lines, I do not think reform will not take place this year. If it does, my guess is that the changes will be few.
Yet, even a few new programs, like the DREAM Act, could have a positive impact on immigrants living in San Diego to Escondido, Riverside to Hemet, San Bernardino to Phoenix, and all points in between these locations – as well as the entire United States.
So why not move the ball forward on at least a few issues, rather than do nothing at all?
Three Political Solutions For Immigration Reform
To understand why immigration reform is unlikely this year, one has to understand how the issue is manipulated in the political arena.
At my Escondido immigration lawyer office last week, I was asked, “What are the different ways immigration law can be changed by Congress?”
There are only three options for reform.
The first option is preferred by opponents of immigration reform. In their view, there is only one solution. Kick out every immigrant. That’s right, they want to kick out all immigrants living in the United States without legal documents. This is not feasible. The costs are far too great. Law enforcement agencies, even if they wanted to go this path, lack the resources.
And there are some immigration restrictions who would kick out even the legal immigrants. But that’s a story for another day.
A second option is at the other end of the spectrum. Amnesty is the buzzword. This is not likely to happen. Poll after poll shows the public is opposed to amnesty.
So what’s left?
The middle. Immigration reform. The more comprehensive, the more durable.
If reform, once passed, only has a few components, then the work for a working immigration system continues . . . perhaps harder than ever. This is where give-and-take negotiations can occur.
The problem, politically, is those opposed to any type of immigration reform label any type of reform packet as amnesty.
This tactic is dishonest. But it’s politically effective.
Unless the President is willing to assume leadership, and confront immigration reform opponents on this tactic, he cannot convince U.S. citizens sitting on the fence to support an immigration reform policy.
Immigration Reform Requires Political Leadership
For almost 18 months, the Obama Administration has been unable to give a clear answer on immigration reform.
In my position as an immigration attorney in San Diego, clients ask me, quite often,”Are we going to have immigration reform this year?”
Unfortunately, I cannot give them a good answer.
Over the past year, immigration reform has resembled a roller coaster ride.
- Last fall, in November, Janet Napolitano, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, said Obama would push for immigration reform in 2010.
- A few weeks later, Congressman Luis Gutierrez introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009. Immigration leaders felt good about the chances for reform after the Christmas break.
- However, in January, Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election for the U.S. Senate. For many, this election signaled the end of immigration reform in 2010.
- About a week later, Obama’s State of the Union speech caused his supporters to question his commitment to resolving immigration issues. The leader of the nations’s largest Hispanic Christian organization, Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, said Obama’s 38 word commentary on immigration was “a crumb.” He added this failure to discuss immigration issues was a warning sign of immigration reform’s death.
- Two months later, in March, the President met with Democrat Charles Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham, two Senators whose support are crucial to immigration reform. According to the the Los Angeles Times, the purpose of the meeting was to push immigration reform forward. But no new package sprang out of this meeting.
Finally, in April, Arizona passed the country’s toughest bill on undocumented immigrants. This set off a firestorm of protests.
Marches. Lawsuits. Name-calling. Political posturing and grandstanding.
The President met with the Arizona governor. No consensus was reached.
Which brings us to last week.
In his speech, the President blamed the Republican Party for standing in the way of reform and reminded reform supporters that undocumented immigrants make a mockery of our immigration system. He also conceded the high need for border security, the inability to deport all undocumented immigrants, there would be no amnesty.
The President is politically correct in taking a middle of the road approach. He did not, however, given any indication he is willing to fight for that position.
In my view, it is not enough to place the blame on Congress.
His role places a duty on him to do more than just point his finger at others. As President, he is required to assert leadership on hard issues.
As President, after all, he is our moral compass.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics