Obama administration behind on immigration reform
April 15, 2010 · Print This Article
Since taking office in January 2009, President Obama has done little to fulfill an explicit campaign promise to reform immigration laws “in my first year as president.” Apparently, after 15 months of delay, it’s on.
Over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told an immigration rally that Congress would get to work on immigration reform as soon as legislators come back from the Easter recess. The commitment, echoed by No. 2 Senate leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., suggests that Democratic lawmakers and the administration have decided to ignore the conventional wisdom that immigration reform is too controversial to tackle in an election year. They’re right.
Obama spent most of his political capital in his first year in office on the urgent task of reviving the economy and the marathon fight over health care. The delay in tackling immigration reform is understandable – but regrettable.
Nothing has taken place since President Bush tried and failed to fix immigration in 2007 to weaken the argument for reform.
The nation sorely needs to bring some 12 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows as part of a comprehensive overhaul that ensures border safety, guarantees future labor needs and promotes fair and legal hiring practices.
Last month, two senators, Democrat Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, got the ball rolling. They unveiled the outlines of a bipartisan proposal that would tackle the vexing problem of dealing with the millions of undocumented immigrants already here.
Among other things, it would require illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law before they could qualify for legalization and require all workers to carry a biometric ID card to prove they qualify for employment. The president immediately endorsed it as “the basis for moving forward.” All of this sounds good.
Unfortunately, the fight over health care left everyone in Washington in a sour mood. Graham reportedly said it would be hard to round up Republican votes for immigration or anything else if Democrats went ahead with health care reform – which they did.
We hope Graham is wrong. Immigration reform deserves bipartisan support. It promotes family unity, clears up difficult problems for employers and improves security along the border, all of which should please Republicans. It also has strong support from Latino voters.
Indeed, the Obama administration may have made the political calculation that an election year is the best time to bring up the issue because it puts politicians of all stripes on the hot seat. Latinos are a growing electoral force that no party can afford to ignore or alienate.
Whatever the reasoning, this is the right priority. Making immigration laws more fair and humane, Obama said on the campaign trail, will “reconcile our values as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.” He talked a good game. Now it’s time to deliver.
- The Miami Herald